I had the privilege of writing a news article about our experience with the Prince. See below:
Local Church Leaders in Durban South Africa Meet with
Prince Mangosutho Buthelezi
by Sister Leesa Thompson
by Sister Leesa Thompson
DURBAN, KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA - A meeting between the local Church leadership of Durban, South Africa and his Excellency, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, President of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), took place on March 27, 2017 at the Party’s head office in downtown Durban. The Prince was accompanied by eleven members of his National Executive Committee (NEC). The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen longstanding relationship with the Prince; present Prince Buthelezi with a set of LDS scriptures; and to set the stage for the Church’s growth over the next several months in Kwazulu Natal (KZN) as a new temple is being built.
His Excellency has been a friend of the LDS church for many years. In the early 1980’s, Buthelezi gave permission for LDS missionaries to proselyte in townships of KZN where the church has now flourished into two stakes and one district. As a result, Bishop Graham Sabela of the Pinetown Ward, President Sipho Duma of the Molweni Branch, President Siyabonga Mkhize of the Hillcrest Stake, and Brother Dominic Tshabalala of the Hillcrest Stake, thanked the Prince for allowing missionary work in these predominantly black areas because they became beneficiaries of accepting the gospel during that era. Each of these men testified that, as a result of missionaries teaching in the townships, they were able to join the Church, serve full-time missions, gain college degrees, including advanced degrees, become successful in careers, and living as outstanding citizens in the Province of Kwazulu-Natal. After each brother testified how serving a mission had contributed toward their many successes, President Kip G. Thompson, Mission President of the South Africa Durban Mission, said that 60 missionaries from the area are currently serving full-time missions in locations all around the world, and many more are preparing to serve. This is in addition to the current one-hundred missionaries serving in the Durban area. He continued to state that as the temple is built, the opportunity for missionary work will increase.
The Prince stated, “I am impressed by the number of young people with the Church who first spend time in the work of missions before pursuing their own careers. They are learning the principle of seeking God’s kingdom first, and in so doing, are acquiring valuable skills, including personal relations, time management, submission to authority, and commitment.”
The Prince came to the Durban Temple’s ground breaking ceremony last year, when his Excellency attended that event during one of the busiest times of his political career. As the Prince expressed at that time, he expressed once again his deep appreciation to the Church in building up communities and emphasizing the importance of families.
The Prince said, “I appreciate your taking the time to bring news on the construction of the Durban Temple. I have a particular interest in this building project after the breaking ground on it almost a year ago. As we stood with our yellow spades, I felt the significance of what we were doing. On that occasion, I thanked the leaders of the Church, and I took the opportunity to applaud the Church’s focus on family. This resonates with me because of the value I place on strong family relationships. As I mentioned, my wife and I have been married for 64 years, and have been blessed with eight children.”
Brother Garith Hill, of the Hillcrest Stake High Council, reminded the Prince that when they attended the temple ground breaking ceremony, he had leaned over and asked how he could get his own set of scriptures. Brother Hill said that was the part of the purpose of the meeting today, and presented his Excellency with a leather-bound set of scriptures with his name embossed on the front.
Several members of the National Executive Committee stated their support and favor of the Church. Mkhuleko Hlengwa, National Chairperson of the Youth Brigade, stated that “if the Party had a church wing, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be it”. He said that “we have a duty to keep our youth busy and to go to church”. Sister Leesa Thompson introduced the Strength of Young pamphlet and the importance of teaching our youth to make correct and moral choices.
Brother Dominic Tshabalala, Hillcrest Stake Director of Public Affairs, introduced the Church’s programs on self-reliance and the importance of education. He explained that these two important programs go hand in hand, and as people are taught these important principles, communities will thrive and the country will gain great success.
The Prince stated, “The second area of focus that is shared by the IFP and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the focus on developing responsible and capable young adults. [Self-reliance] is the cornerstone of the IFP. When I founded this Party in 1975, we placed the principles of self-help and self-reliance at the foundation of our beliefs.”
Brother Tshabalala explained how members of the Church are not compensated for their service, but that we serve others because we love God, and we love God’s children. Members of the NEC expressed their great admiration for a Church that promotes serving all people.
The Prince said, “This, to me, is the calling of the church as the full body of Christ, to be a light to the world, to serve God’s kingdom, to bind up the broken hearted, to take care of the widow and the orphan, to preach the good news of the gospel, to visit those in prison, feed those who are hungry, and clothe those who are destitute. None of these things can be done by keeping ourselves apart. We must go into the world to be the hands of Christ. During the ground-breaking ceremony last year, I expressed the hope that the principles of moral living, commitment and family values will deepen in South Africa through the work of the Church. That is still my prayer.”
President Thompson offered Books of Mormon, Strength of Youth, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlets to anyone who was interested. Every member of the NEC approached President and Sister Thompson and asked for a Book of Mormon and the two pamphlets. Many were interested in attending Church and learning more.
His Excellency Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi founded the independent political party, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). After the release of all political prisoners and the formation of the Convention for Democratic South Africa (Codesa), he represented the Inkatha Freedom Party in the negotiation for a democratic South Africa. After the first democratic elections in 1994, Prince Buthelezi served as Minister of Home Affairs for two terms. In 1998 when President Nelson Mandela was in Washington to receive a Congressional Order, he served as Acting President of South Africa.