FAREWELL SERVICE OF THE CENTRAL DIOCESE ON THE RETIREMENT OF

BISHOP MANAS BUTHELEZI

OF THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN SOUTHERN AFRICA


REMARKS BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN UNDUNANKULU KAZULU
CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS (KWAZULU NATAL)
AND MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

SOWETO: MARCH 5, 2000

My heart is overwhelmed on this occasion as we gather to bid farewell to my first cousin, Bishop Manas Buthelezi. After years of dedicated service to furthering the Kingdom of our Lord God Almighty in the communities of South Africa, Bishop Buthelezi is at last retiring, claiming the rest and quiet he so richly deserves. The Bible tells us that there is a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to work and a time to rest. Bishop Buthelezi has spent his days sowing for the Lord. I believe that his time of rest will be a truly blessed one in which he may simply spend time with those who have loved and supported him throughout the years. On this occasion, I wish to pay tribute to our family who has stood by my cousin even in times of tribulation.

In the Gospel according to St John, 16 vs 33, it is written: "These things I have spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". Bishop Manas Buthelezi has already heard the words which bring peace. Today, many of us seek to find the words to thank him as he deserves. When words fail us, however, we know that his thanks is in the life of every sheep he has shepherded into the fold of our Lord. Through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Bishop Buthelezi has fulfilled his duty to go into the world and speak the good news. He has tended his flock throughout the years according to the example of Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. I am certain that it is only the words of our Lord which can truly thank him as he deserves, as the Almighty will surely say "Well done, my good and faithful servant".

Never once have I heard a complaint about my cousin. Like the Good Shepherd, he has brought his people together, solving conflicts and soothing tensions. He never became entangled in any conflict himself. I wish to thank Bishop Manas Buthelezi for watching over part of our family for so many years. 

It is a task I myself would wish to have fulfilled, yet my public position has never allowed me the liberty of giving all my attention to my family. It is comforting to know that my cousin has aided me in this respect, for he has always been known as a man of God who keeps the flock together. I am close to my cousin. My father, Mathole Phumesaleni Buthelezi, and his father, Hlephu Absalom Buthelezi, were brothers. They were sons of Mkhandumba Buthelezi, a warrior who distinguished himself at the battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. It is pleasing to see that Manas Buthelezi, like our fathers before us, is also a warrior, but this time a warrior for Christ. He has fought for the Lord all his life and I am proud that he is part of this family.

I believe that my cousin, Bishop Manas Buthelezi, was placed within this Church and within the communities he has led over the years, according to a divine plan. Indeed, his original calling ensured that he would be led to speak to those who needed to hear, to counsel those who needed comfort and to guide the lost and seeking sheep. I have spoken on many occasions with my cousin of the faithfulness of our Lord in placing us in the right position, at the right time. I myself have had the experience, more often than I can remember, of being led by the Spirit to the place where I am needed most. The forty years of my political career bear many instances of testimony to the fact that men and women of God can make a difference as we are guided in this world by the Spirit and led in the service of our Lord.

Indeed, it was as a lay delegate of the Anglican Diocese of Zululand and Swaziland that I was travelling with Canon Philip Mbatha to Toronto, Canada to attend an Anglican Conference in 1963. Canon Philip Mbatha was a close friend of the late Rt. Revd. Alphaeus Zulu, the first Anglican black Diocesan Bishop in Southern Africa, who had prepared me for confirmation at St. Faith's Church in Durban. En route to the conference in Canada we stopped in the United Kingdom and there I met, for the first time, with Oliver Tambo, the then leader of the ANC's external mission. On my return to South Africa, my passport was confiscated for nine years. Had I not had the fortuitous opportunity to meet with Mr Tambo then, I would perhaps not have met him until 1979, when I again travelled to London to meet him with a delegation of the ANC which included the present President of South Africa, and President of the ANC, Mr Thabo Mbeki.

During my time as a lay delegate, I met many men and women of God whose encouragement and fellowship would ensure that I could fulfil my task as a political leader in South Africa. I firmly believe that God chose to place me among spiritual giants throughout my life to teach me that in a world where the lowest and basest of human nature often rules, it is he who walks with the Lord who will prosper. I recall my close friendship with Bishop Selby-Taylor, the Bishop of Grahamstown, whom I met when Dr Alan Paton and I were appointed by the then Archbishop of Cape Town to the Council of St. Peter's Seminary as lay members of its Council in Alice. It was during this time that I met our former Archbishop, the Most Revd. Desmond Tutu, when he was a lecturer at St. Peter's Theological Seminary.

As an Anglican, my path has been different from that of my cousin, who established himself in the Lutheran tradition. Although many in our family grew up in close relationships with one another, we entered different religious traditions according to the location of the missions. The Lord said "I am the vine, ye are the branches" and in this way there is unity within the body of Christ. I have never seen two branches which are exactly the same on one vine. Yet when the vine is healthy, every branch will bear healthy fruit. So it is that my cousin and I are reconciled in our different traditions, because the fruits we bear are equally due to the perfection of our sovereign Lord.

Still, I know that the path of the Lutheran is no easier than that of the Anglican. Indeed, I believe that as children of the living God we are all challenged to be more in this world than others. We are challenged to be alert and aware of the things happening around us. Moreover, we are challenged to speak up when things are happening that do not conform to the moral values we are taught through the scriptures of our Lord. I myself have often known this challenge, and have needed to draw deeply on the wells of courage and strength of my faith to stand up and voice what have often been unpopular truths. Indeed, without the supernatural strength which my faith has given me, I doubt if I could have withstood the trials and tribulations of my life in public office, and the great vilification I had to endure over the years, and which goes on even now with no sign of abating.

I know that I have been blessed by close Christian brotherhood with those who have provided their testimony of faith in various ways and along differing paths. I will surely never forget the spiritual support and guidance of Bishop Alphaeus Zulu and the late Bishop Thomas Savage, under whom I served for many years on the Diocesan Trust Board and the Diocesan Standing Committee. It is through their constant encouragement that I was able to stand up to the challenge when I was installed as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan. Today, I am proud to count among the men of God who have encouraged me and lent me strength, my own cousin and a member of my own family, Bishop Manas Buthelezi.

Through our faith, we are dressed in the robes of God's glory, yet we remain frail and fallible humans underneath. It is only through the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit that we come to act as men and women wearing Christ-like robes for all to see. It is for this reason that my cousin, Bishop Manas Buthelezi, is to be honoured today, for he has walked his entire life wearing the robes of obedience, patience and gentleness. In this way, he has brought great honour to his faith and glory to the name of our Lord. When I think of my cousin, I am reminded of the gifts of the Spirit. It is no great difficulty to see that his character has been shaped and formed by the hand of our Lord. 

My cousin and I have always reminded one another of what may be achieved by living according to the Christian gospel. I have received great edification from watching his life and hearing the inspired words of his teachings. I feel that Bishop Buthelezi has been blessed in having been called into the Church and for walking this path to its conclusion. While his time in service to this church has now come to an end, I know that his Christian walk shall continue, and that he will grow from strength to strength according to the will of our Lord. There will be a new time of closeness with the Maker for Manas Buthelezi, as his schedule finally adjusts to allow more space and time to devote simply to experiencing the joys of living. 

He has worked hard to achieve this moment. I pray his golden years will be richly rewarding.

It fills my heart with peace to know that Manas Buthelezi is retiring to settle at his place of birth in KwaZulu Natal. I believe that our Lord always brings us home when He has first sent us out into the world. As this cycle of teaching and evangelism comes to a close in my cousin's life, the Lord is indeed bringing him home. To me, there seems to be only one message expressed in the faithfulness of the Almighty in my cousin's life. That message is one of reward. The true needs and yearnings of our souls are known to our Lord before they are made known even to our own minds. I trust that God has fulfilled the longing of my cousin by returning him home, so that he may be with those who love him not merely as a leader of the Church, but also as a father, a husband, an uncle and a brother. 

I wish to include in my tribute, Mrs. Grace Buthelezi, the Bishop's wife who has stood by him through thick and thin. We as members of the Buthelezi family love and respect Mrs. Buthelezi as the kind of person that she has been ever since she arrived and was brought into the Buthelezi family. We know that there is not a single marriage where difficulties do not arise. We respect Mrs. Grace Buthelezi for her faithfulness to the Lord, and for her faithfulness to her husband. We pay tribute to her for her patience, for her perseverance and for her endurance. As someone who knew both her parents as well as I did, I feel certain that Bishop Mhlungu and Mrs. Mhlungu are proud of the way she has travelled in her own pilgrimage up to this point in time.

As we bid farewell, let us therefore pray that the Spirit of God who guides Manas Buthelezi will increase His gifts of abundance in the years to come. Surely, Bishop Buthelezi will be missed by all those who have worked with him and come to know him throughout the years. He will be remembered as a great example of faith for those who must now take up the ongoing task of bringing the Lord's sheep safely into the Shepherd's fold. We thank Bishop Buthelezi, and we wish him well.

 

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