Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his wife Irene at the opening of Princess Magogo at the Durban Playhouse in 2002. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his wife Irene at the opening of Princess Magogo at the Durban Playhouse in 2002. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Irene Audrey Thandekile Buthelezi, described as the "beloved" wife of veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has died.

“Following a long and difficult illness, Princess Irene passed away peacefully this morning at KwaPhindangene,” the family of the IFP leader said in a statement on Monday.

“She leaves behind her husband of almost 67 years, their children Prince Ntuthukoyezwe Zuzifa, Princess Phumzile Nokuphiwa and Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela, and many grandchildren. All are devastated by this loss.”

The family requested that their privacy be respected as the necessary arrangements are made for the funeral of the 89-year-old, the date for which will be announced in due course.

“We thank our many friends and supporters for their love, prayers and condolences in this painful time. Our greatest solace is in knowing that Princess Irene Buthelezi has been received by her Lord. By His grace, she rests in peace.”

In 2008, their daughter Lethuxolo Bengitheni died in a road accident. She was killed instantly when she was thrown from her bakkie, which struck a barrier and careened down a steep embankment on the R66 at Mthonjaneni Heights near Melmoth.

Four years earlier, the Buthelezis lost two children, months apart. Daughter Mandisi Sibukakonke and son Nelisuzulu Benedict Buthelezi both died from HIV/Aids. The IFP leader disclosed the cause of his son’s death during the funeral.