Press Statement By
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
With the passing of His Excellency former President Shimon Peres, a chapter of history has closed. We mourn this loss knowing that it is a loss to all mankind, whatever side of the ideological divide we might find ourselves on. For President Peres was a champion of peace, a negotiator, and an exceptional conciliatory leader.
I am grateful to have seen him again in February this year when he visited South Africa. Ironically, I told him on that occasion that I had resigned myself to the possibility that we would only meet again in eternity. I therefore thank the Lord for granting us that last chance to see one another. Our warm reunion spoke of the deep and long friendship we have shared.
I first met President Peres when he was serving as Prime Minister of Israel, and I was serving my own country as Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government. In August 1985, Prime Minister Peres invited me and my wife to visit Israel, where we also met with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, former Minister Abba Eban and Director-General David Kimche.
In that difficult time in our country, I was warmly received, even by the media. But I was most deeply affected by the words of Prime Minister Peres himself, spoken to me in private. He told me, “We are brothers in suffering”. It was a poignant moment, realising that he understood my struggle for South Africa.
Our friendship endured, to the extent that he invited me to his 80th birthday celebration almost two decades later, in 2003. It was there that I first met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
My friendship with Israel was cemented by the friendship I found with His Excellency President Peres. I admired his leadership and his commitment to finding solutions in difficult times to intractable problems. In his wisdom, he sought stability and peace for all people. I pray now that his legacy will be carried forward by a new generation.
On behalf of the IFP and my own family, I express our deepest condolences.