South African Inkatha Freedom Party Leader Buthelezi Says Son Died of AIDS-Related Causes
South African Inkatha Freedom Party Leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi on Friday told thousands of mourners attending the funeral of his 53-year-old son, Prince Nelisuzulu Benedict Buthelezi, that he died of AIDS-related causes, South Africa's Sunday Argus/Independent Online reports. Buthelezi, who last week lost his position as home affairs minister after receiving few votes in the recent national elections, said, "I reach out to all the other people who have died of HIV/AIDS. My son did." Although his remarks were not in his prepared speech, Buthelezi "clearly" referred to HIV/AIDS in other parts of his prepared comments, according to the Sunday Argus/Independent Online. "I am crying for the death of my son. ... I feel the pain of any father and mother across our land at this tragic hour of history. I feel the pain for the many children of Africa who are now dying an untimely and terrible death," Buthelezi said. Buthelezi, who previously has been critical of the government's slow response to HIV/AIDS, "has broken the wall of silence that continues to surround the deaths of well-known people in an HIV and AIDS ravaged country and challenged the stigma that still clings to the disease," according to the Sunday Argus/Independent Online (Terreblanche, Sunday Argus/Independent Online, 5/2). In an interview with Reuters last year, Buthelezi said that HIV/AIDS was the biggest challenge facing the country (Reuters, 5/2). Approximately 5.3 million South Africans are HIV-positive, the highest number of cases in any country in the world (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/27).
An aide to Buthelezi said he may have made the remarks because "[t]his is the first time that he can really push the envelope because he was always beholden to the ANC presidency and before that to the homeland system of apartheid," according to the Sunday Argus/Independent Online. However, others said that Buthelezi's comments on HIV/AIDS were "nothing new," as he often and openly speaks about HIV/AIDS prevention, the Sunday Argus/Independent Online reports (Sunday Argus/Independent Online, 5/2). The South African AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Sunday in a statement praised Buthelezi for his openness about the cause of his son's death. "The TAC national executive committee does not share the politics of the Inkatha Freedom Party or its leader, but we commend the courage that the family and, in particular, Chief Buthelezi are demonstrating," the statement said. TAC also called on Buthelezi to "join hands" with other national officials "to set a nonpartisan example on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment that every province and the country can follow" (SAPA/Business Day, 5/3).