IFP’s Mario Oriani-Ambrosini dies aged 53

Mario Oriani-Ambrosini has died at the age of 53 after publicly battling lung cancer since 2013. He was a Member of Parliament iwith the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). His family released a statement saying Ambrosini died “in the early hours of this [Saturday, August 16] morning” after a long and courageous battle with terminal lung cancer.

Mario Oriani-Ambrosini
Mario Oriani-Ambrosini

“Mario fought many battles throughout his life, but this was no doubt his toughest. Nonetheless, he continued to fight, not only for his own sake, but on behalf of the countless people who face this same battle,” said the family. Since day one when diagnosed with terminal cancer without any previous symptoms, he decided on his course of treatment and adjusted it according to his own research, studies and experimentations. He remained true to his own character, right up to the end.”

Ambrosini was born in Rome, Italy on October 26, 1960. His father was Columbia University trained constitutional law professor and international lawyer Raffaele Orian. Ambrosini was adopted and raised by his grand-uncle Gaspare Ambrosini, an Italian founding father, after his father died in 1971.

He attended the Sapienza University of Rome, Harvard University and Georgetown University Law Center. During the three years he spent at Rome University, he assisted former President of the Italian Constitutional Court, Prof. Francesco Paolo Bonifacio, with seminars on constitutional justice.

Ambrosini’s relationship with IFP leader Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi dates back to December 1990 when he acted as the legal advisor for the IFP at the opening of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). In June 1992, at a of the UN Security Council in a meeting called by Nelson Mandela to push forward the transition to democracy, he sat next to Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi and later that year he drafted the Constitution of KwaZulu/Natal which was unanimously adopted by the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly as the constitution of a member state of a federation to be formed in the national negotiation process.

Ambrosini played a key role in the international mediation effort led by Henry Kissinger and Lord Carrington and the negotiation of the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace which enabled an all-inclusive democratic election in 1994. After the 1994 general election Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi became Minister of Home Affairs in Nelson Mandela‘s administration and Ambrosini was  appointed as Buthelezi’s sole Cabinet Adviser.

In April 2013 Ambrosini revealed that he was diagnosed suddenly and without significant prior symptoms with stage four lung cancer, which had extensively “metastasized throughout my pleura”. “The condition is terminal and not operable, and, if left untreated, will cause me to be removed from all lists for Christmas functions or gifts,” he joked. Ambrosini wouldn’t undergo chemotherapy, saying that it would only buy him a few more months of life with severe side effects.

In May 2013, in a press statement, Ambrosini wrote: “I count on achieving a cure in three months and will then return to my parliamentary work. If my gamble is successful, I plan to dedicate a great portion of my future political and professional life on the fight to eradicate cancer as a cause of death. If I fail, I hope that what I tried to do for democracy in South Africa and elsewhere will be appreciated.”

In February 2014 during the State of the Nation address debate Ambrosini appealed to President Jacob Zuma and the government to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes. He later tabled a private member’s Bill, the Medical Innovation Bill, which sought to allow doctors to administer innovative unproven, but harmless, cancer treatments in cases where other treatments cannot provide a cure and on the basis of the patient’s informed consensus, thereby shielding doctors from common law liability and medical profession requirements.

President Jacob Zuma later responded to Ambrosini’s plea saying “I was touched to see the man I have known and worked with for more than 20 years in this condition. I have asked the minister of health to look into this matter.”

African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Stone Sizani described Ambrosini as an “ardent constitutionalist” while Wilmot James of the Democratic Alliance (DA) said “We have lost a great man in Mario Ambrosini”.


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