DURBAN - THE Injenje yabeNguni Council and the National Freedom Party (NFP) have called on provincial premier Sihle Zikalala to honour induna Zihogozelanga “Mgilija” Nhleko with a provincial funeral.
The council, which advocates for Zulu nationalism, and the NFP said they still regarded Mgilija as the official commander of the Zulu regiments, even though he was removed from the position, adding his removal could not be taken seriously as he was not fired by the king who appointed him to the position.
The council leader Phumlani Mfeka told the Daily News on Tuesday that they were expecting the premier to write to The Presidency asking for permission to give Mgilija a dignified send-off by honouring him with a state funeral at least at a provincial level.
His sentiments were echoed by NFP secretary-general Canaan Mdletshe, who said Mgilija deserved to be given a dignified send-off by the government for his role as regiments leader.
Mdletshe said as far as the NFP knew, Mgilija was still the commander of amabutho at the time of his death and, therefore, the government was bound to honour him.
Nhleko, 72, died at a Richards Bay Hospital on Monday night after spending more than a month there. He was said to be ailing from TB-related diseases, but his family had not given the details of his illness.
In a statement issued by Mfeka, he said the death of the internationally renowned Zulu regiments commander evoked great sadness and “indeed anger” among many as the nation felt robbed of a proud Nguni gem whose sparkle remained unsurpassed among his peers.
“We want a special funeral and a gun salute for the commander of amabutho, premier Zikalala.”
Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela said she had learnt with shock and sadness of his death, adding that Mgilija would be remembered for being part of the delegation of regiments who accompanied the late King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu to the UK.
“Mgilija’s leadership skills caught the attention of the country in March this year when he led regiments to pay their last tribute to the late king, where he showed us that when given a leadership position, you must serve with honour and patriotism,” said Mavimbela.
Zulu Royal family spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu said they were still waiting to meet induna’s family before issuing a statement.
Premier spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said government would meet with the family where other developments would be discussed.
He urged the media to give the family and government space to deal with the death.
The Daily News reported two weeks ago that Mgilija had been admitted at a Richards Bay hospital for an undisclosed illness.
Although Nhleko has been a commander of the amabutho for years, he shot to prominence after leading regiments during the planting of the late Zulu King Zwelithini in March this year.
He led amabutho defying Covid-19 protocols when the country was on Level 5 lockdown, despite warnings from the Zulu nation traditional prime minister Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who had given a directive to amabutho to observe Covid-19 regulations.
He also led amabutho to Nkandla to support former president Jacob Zuma before his arrest in July.