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Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a controversial South African political figure, laid to rest

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a controversial South African politician and traditional minister of the Zulu nation, was laid to rest Saturday after dying at the age of 95 this week.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a eulogy at Buthelezi’s funeral in Ulundi in the KwaZulu-Natal province, where he had been living, praising him for his work as a lawmaker and commitment to eventually participate in South Africa’s peaceful transition to a democratic state.

Mourners including leaders of rival political parties, government officials, the clergy and community members gathered to pay their last respects to a man who continues to divide opinion in South Africa.

Buthelezi founded the Inkatha Freedom Party in 1975, which was responsible for some of the worst political violence seen in the country in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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Although opposed to apartheid — the policy of racial segregation implemented by the white minority government in South Africa before the country’s transition to democracy in 1994 — Buthelezi was at odds with liberation leaders who labeled him a sell-out.

He headed the administrative region of Zululand, one of the “homelands” the apartheid government created to enforce the segregation policy.

Buthelezi was one of the longest serving lawmakers in South Africa and served as a minister in Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet despite previous tensions with Mandela and the African National Congress party.

Three former South African presidents, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, attended his burial.

“At certain points in our history, there were deep divisions between the two leaders (Mandela and Buthelezi), but they reconciled and made peace for the sake of rebuilding our country,” said Ramaphosa.