Durban - It was a fusion of two rich cultures as members of the royal Zulu and Swati families became one on Saturday.
King Goodwill Zwelithini wed his sixth wife, Queen Zola Mafu, 27, at the Ulundi Regional Sports Ground. More than 20 000 people gathered to catch a glimpse of the traditional Zulu wedding, with others who weren’t accredited being turned away.
The wedding took place amid tight security, with guests going through security checks and having their bags searched for weapons. Sniffer dogs were used to comb the sports ground, while guards from MDM Risk Management Services provided security.
President Jacob Zuma arrived by helicopter wearing full Zulu regalia and holding a spear. He took his seat in the VIP marquee next to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu. Also among the guests was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Zuma joined thousands of amabutho, or members of Zulu regiments, and sang songs while waiting for the king and queen to arrive. Their arrival was signalled by the sound of roaring motorbike engines.
As the nuptials began, spectators ululated at the sight of the king and his new queen.
Bare-breasted maidens sang “Nangu mama, woza uzobona”, which means “here comes our mother – come and see”.
The bride wore a snow-white goat’s-hair ruff over her traditional costume, and was barefoot, with dried coccoons around her ankles that rattled when she danced.
She was glowing, and remained radiant throughout the lengthy celebrations. King Goodwill, too, appeared happy and relaxed.
Queen Mafu sang special songs with her troupe of Zulu maidens, while Mangosutho Buthelezi – dressed in a black polo neck, traditional fur headband and fur skirt – led a Zulu regiment in song and dance.
Approaching the queen mother Mavis Zungu with her eyes lowered in respect, the new young bride presented her with a leopard-print blanket.
Members of the bride’s family then came forward to present gifts of their own, including handwoven grass mats and a bed.
Each stage of the proceedings was greeted with ululation from the thousands of spectators, and the mood was one of joyous celebration.
Festivities began on Friday night, when women brewed traditional Zulu beer and men slaughtered more than 100 cows.
The cows were gifts from various businessmen, as well as amakhosi.
Durban businessman Vivian Reddy, a guest at the wedding, congratulated the royal couple.
“My relationship with his family spans 30 years, and his celebrations are mine and his pains are mine, as I regard him as part of my family,” said Reddy.
The businessman would not divulge what gift he had bought for his long-time friend.
A source told the Sunday Tribune that Zuma had personally bought the king a present.
“He bought him a gift in his personal capacity, and he received a gift from the state.”
Daniel Seah from the International Enterprise of Singapore arrived carrying a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose Champagne.
“I wish him a happy marriage and a happy birthday,” said Seah.
Festivities carried on today as the king celebrated his 60th birthday, and a traditional ceremony called umabo took place at Ondoni Royal Palace, where the new queen will take up official residence.
Zwelithini married Queen Nompunelelo Mchiza 22 years ago.
At the tender age of 17, Mafu was chosen to be the king’s future wife in 2004. She gave birth to Prince Nhlendla in 2005.