Ramaphosa pays tribute to late king

Military pallbearers carry the coffin of Xhosa king Zwelonke Mpendulo Sigcawu during the special official funeral at Nqadu Royal Palace.
Military pallbearers carry the coffin of Xhosa king Zwelonke Mpendulo Sigcawu during the special official funeral at Nqadu Royal Palace.
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral of amaXhosa King Mpendulo Calvin Zwelonke Sigcawu at the Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale on Friday, describing the late monarch as a patriot, a kind-hearted king and a unifier who was vocal about issues and championed community development and the upliftment of the youth.

He said Sigcawu had also been a champion of women’s rights who believed women had to be respected, and added that the country was “indeed poorer at the loss of our king”.

“He was an outspoken champion of transformation and development,” Ramaphosa told thousands of mourners, among them kings from SA and neighbouring states, ministers, political leaders and citizens.

“He was also critical about government’s pace of service delivery. But he remained patriotic.”

Among those who attended the event were former state president Thabo Mbeki, who also delivered a tribute to the late king, government ministers, ANC leaders, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, EFF leader Julius Malema and well-known philanthropist and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe.

Ramaphosa said Sigcawu was concerned about poverty among his people and had introduced many agricultural co-operatives to reduce their dependency on state social grants.

“He was vocal about many issues such as drug and alcohol abuse and he advocated passionately for youth development. His majesty believed that the rights of women should be respected.”

He labelled Sigcawu as a unifying figure and a great leader whose influence had extended beyond the borders of SA.

Tributes had been received from as far afield as Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Venezuela and Serbia.

“We have lost a respected leader. He was a pillar of the community and a solid partner of government,” added Ramaphosa.

Family representatives Nkosi  Daliwonga Derrick Magwebi said that two cultures, African and Western, could coexist if relations were exercised properly.

''But in this instance we had to compromised some of our ritual and the military did the same.

However Mgwebi, who is a retired military general, took a swipe, saying African culture and practices were still being undermined.

In the graveyard at the burial, Ramaphosa  handed over the flag to the king’s uncle Nkosi Xhanti Sigcawu.

The king’s four wives, Nolwando, Sive,  Simanye  and Liyema, sat in the front row with the king’s mother Queen Nozamile and his aunt  NomaXhosa  Sigcawu.

The king’s eldest daughter NomaTshawe, 13, cried out as the coffin was lowered and her mother had to take her away and console her. ​

Mbeki, who described the late king as an outstanding leader, said SA was faced with challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and drought which affected millions of South Africans.

He said the scourge of corruption and xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals were among the ills facing the country.

SA was crying out for strategic, thoughtful leadership which was committed to serving the people.

“King Zwelonke was such a leader,” he said adding that the departed monarch had taken the struggle against xenophobia to heart.

He said prior to his death, he had instructed that they meet to discuss ways to address some of the challenges.

“I regret that meeting never happened.”

Ndebele King Makhosonke Mabena II, who worked closely with Sigcawu, delivered a hard-hitting tribute in which he accused the government of failing the late king. He said the king  had been in and out of hospital and had to pay his own medical bills because the state had not done so.

“I want to tell the president [Ramaphosa] that kings too do get sick and their families deserve better health care. We don’t have medical aid.”

Mabena II said the late king had wanted to create jobs and build stadiums for young people and was determined to repair bridges and see to it that gravel roads in his kingdom were tarred. He said what set him apart was that he was also not afraid to speak his mind.

Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was one of the programme directors, described Sigcawu as confrontational but also blessed with a sense of humour.

“It did not matter who you were. He told you what he said and did not buy faces,” she said.

sikhon@dispatch.co.za / lulamilef@dispatch.co.za


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