KZN calls on presidency to declare state funeral for King Goodwill Zwelithini

The province has declared a week of mourning, suspending all engagements

The KwaZulu-Natal government has called for a state funeral for late Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini. File photo.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has called for a state funeral for late Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini. File photo.
Image: Thembinkosi Dwayisa © Sunday Times

The KwaZulu-Natal government has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a state funeral for Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Premier Sihle Zikalala told journalists at briefing on Friday that the province has declared a week of mourning, which meant that all private and government engagements would be suspended.

Zikalala said the provincial executive council would visit the royal family on Sunday to offer its condolences.

On Thursday March 18, prayer services will be held throughout the province.

“Government will appoint an interministerial committee that will work with the royal house in preparation for all the activities leading to the burial.”

Zikalala said his office will be guided by the royal family and presidency regarding preparations and logistics for King Zwelithini's final send-off, which will be in accordance with level 1 Covid-19 regulations.

Zikalala declined to answer a question posed to him during the briefing about whether the king had died as a result of Covid-19 complications.

“With regard to his sickness, I think it would be respectful for government to speak on its mandate and allow the royal house to speak on the issues of the royal house. So the whole issue of his sickness would be better handled by the royal house.”

At 72 years of age, King Zwelithini took his last breath in a Durban hospital on Friday morning, having made history as the longest-serving Zulu monarch after a reign spanning almost 50 years.

The traditional prime minister to the king, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, announced hours after his death that his body will lie in state at the royal palace in Nongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal, for a “few days” while the nation mourns his passing.

Zikalala said despite knowing that the king was unwell, there was hope that he would recover.

We have lost the father and pillar of our nation who placed himself forward as our unique torch-bearer during some of the darkest times this country has ever seen.
KZN premier Sihle Zikalala

“We have lost the father and pillar of our nation who placed himself forward as our unique torchbearer during some of the darkest times this country has ever seen.

“We have entered the period of profound sadness in the history of KwaZulu-Natal and indeed that of the country.

“His Majesty made history as the longest serving among kings of the Zulu nation, but also presided over this nation during some of the most tumultuous and difficult periods in our history.

“His Majesty played a key role in the consolidation of post-apartheid SA into a democracy which recognised the diversity of our country and will be remembered for his role as an apolitical, non-partisan and uniting monarch above the different political parties which contest political power.

“His Majesty the king occupied the Zulu throne during a very difficult period in the politics of KwaZulu-Natal, when violent conflict among his subjects resulted in the death of thousands of people.

“He was integral to the peace efforts that saw the ANC and the IFP put aside their differences to work together to bring about a better life for all the people of KwaZulu-Natal. The subsequent mutual respect for the institution of Zulu monarchy was a direct result of his approach to embrace all, irrespective of party affiliation.”

Zikalala said the king's death had “reverberated across the globe, causing earth tremors far and wide”.

“This is evidenced by the outpouring of grief and messages of sympathy that have been received from embassies and nations across the world.

“His Majesty departs at a time when we are still grappling with the devastating impact of Covid-19, and the looming spectre of the feared third wave of the virus leaves our nation bereft of one of its important leaders.”

He said the king played a “critical role” and “won the admiration of the world through the revival of cultural ceremonies and rites like the reed dance and medical male circumcision”.

“We also salute His Majesty for having led the revival of the institution of traditional leaders, presiding over the installation of amakhosi. Those ceremonies were critical in defending society against the Aids pandemic and many other diseases facing our nation.”

Since news of King Zwelithini's death broke on Friday morning, tributes have continued to pour in.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal hailed the king as a “champion of peace and reconciliation”.

The provincial wing of the ANC said in a statement that King Zwelithini's death came as a double tragedy to the royal family, after the recent passing of his son Prince Lethukuthula Zulu in Johannesburg.

“The king was a champion of peace and reconciliation. He played a leading role in peace initiatives between the warring factions in the province,” said ANC provincial spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela.

“The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal understands the death of His Majesty comes at a time when the Zulu monarch was still recovering from the passing of Prince Lethukuthula Zulu. We wish the family strength in these trying times.”

Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said she had hoped for King Zwelithini's full recovery.

“Having learnt of the hospitalisation of His Majesty a few weeks back and regular updates that we have been getting about his health, I had been hopeful of his speedy recovery,” said Didiza.

“His Majesty was a sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, an entity of the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development and he had always provided his vision for the Ingonyama Trust board.

“We have worked very well with His Majesty on improving the operations of the Ingonyama Trust board and subsequently improving the lives of his subjects,” she said.

Faith Muthambi, chair of parliament's portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs, described King Zwelithini as “a beacon of hope and the pillar of the Zulu nation since he assumed the throne of kingship”.

“Throughout his kingship tenure, at times that were marked by bitter political struggles for the transformation of SA society, King Zwelithini remained at the side of his people as a symbol of strength and peace.”

The Afrikanerbond also extended its condolences to the royal family and the Zulu kingdom.

“King Goodwill Zwelithini is a symbol and torchbearer of the special diversity of SA and he proudly represented and promoted his Zulu identity, within the multitude of SA cultures, customs and traditions. We hope that the multicultural and diverse SA community of communities will continue to be built on in his memory,” said the Afrikanerbond.

The SA Communist Party (SACP) in KwaZulu-Natal said the king, “like his predecessors played a massive role in keeping the Zulu people together and was a champion for peace and preservation of the Zulu culture and traditions”.

“The Zulu royal family, just like other kingdoms in Southern Africa, played a critical role in the fights against colonialism and the dispossession of indigenous Africans of their land,” said provincial spokesperson Sifiso Gwala.



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