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My privilege knowing King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu

File Picture: ANA Photographers/African News Agency(ANA)

File Picture: ANA Photographers/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 15, 2021


Ndabezinhle Sibiya

GRIEF has gripped the nation following the untimely passing on of His Majesty – King Goodwill kaBhekuzulu.

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The entire Zululand district where KwaKhethomthandayo Palace is located looks like it is going to implode under the weight of so much emotion from local residents. I can only imagine the severity of the pain that the Zulu Royal Family is experiencing at a loss so great that no man can heal.

Isilo Samabandla was the direct descendant of the great warriors who founded the nation that is known all over the world.

Zulu kings inducted a strong sense of national pride and made their people believe in themselves in the face of adversity. Comments on social media and messages of condolence that have been pouring out from different parts of the country - and from the diplomatic community - are an indication of the impact that His Majesty had made since his coronation in 1971.

Since I received the tragic news in the early hours of Friday morning, I have been reflecting on the lifetime experience of being moulded and guided by His Majesty. There are many other colleagues in all spheres of government who can relate their personal experiences of how their lives were touched by Isilo.

I recall that in 2009, a few days before the people of KwaZulu-Natal witnessed the inauguration of the fifth premier and the second premier from the ANC since the dawn of our new democracy, Dr Zweli Mkhize requested his private office to set up a meeting with the King.

Dr Mkhize felt that it was important to meet His Majesty before his inauguration, which was held on May 11, 2009. Importantly, Dr Mkhize wanted to use this meeting to start the drafting of the State of the Province Address. The meeting, which took place at Thokazi Royal Lodge, had specific objectives. Firstly, to seek inputs and guidance from the King; secondly, to present government’s programme of action during the term of office ending in 2014; thirdly, to discuss the setting up of the Royal Household Trust; fourthly, to discuss the management of communication of the work of the Monarch as an institution.

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This meeting was attended by Cyril Xaba, who was later appointed as head of secretariat of the KZN Planning Commission and a member of the Royal Household Trust. Plans for the establishment of both the Trust and the KZN Planning Commission were also discussed in this meeting and agreed upon. It was in this historic meeting wherein His Majesty offered to work with members of the executive council under the leadership of the premier “to augment the work of Provincial Government".

After that meeting, Isilo Samabandla, as the peacemaker, a farmer and a promoter of the creation of sustainable livelihoods, attended most government events. He always offered his undivided attention to various members of the executive council and increased the appeal and uptake of government's programmes of service delivery. One remains privileged to have been part of this journey and to celebrate many anniversaries of His Majesty on the throne.

Although a dark cloud is hanging over this province, we have the opportunity to look back with pride at the achievements of this province both economically and politically under the guidance of uBhejane phum’ esiQiwini. The week of mourning gives the people of this province the opportunity to acknowledge the critical role the institution of the Monarch has played throughout the intervening years.

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Many people will recall that when political intolerance threatened the fragile peace that had been achieved after years of political violence, His Majesty was always available to guide elected leaders as a peacemaker. He had a rare ability of bringing leaders of all political parties together and preached his messages of peace and tolerance without taking sides. Isilo always sought to make all leaders of society understand that in everything they do they have to put the interests of ordinary people first.

During the official opening of the KZN legislature, he often stated that ordinary people should be made an integral part of every government programme of action and not be spectators because he believed that this is the essence of democracy. He often pointed that the people of KwaZulu-Natal should stand together to fight crime, the proliferation of drugs in schools and communities and eradicate fraud and corruption especially in our municipalities.

Fight against HIV, Aids and TB

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The medical fraternity, and health, HIV and Aids activists commended Isilo for his contribution towards the fight against the diseases.

In the meeting to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Partnership for the Fight Against HIV and Aids, His Majesty announced that he wanted to continue to use cultural events such as the Reed Dance and Umkhosi Wokweshwama to rally traditional leaders and the entire nation against this pandemic.

Many people will recall that it was during Umkhosi Wokweshwama on December 4, 2009 that he announced the revival of circumcision amongst young men. He made the announcement within the context of the fight against HIV and Aids. He stressed that circumcision would assist in the fight against the pandemic although on its own did not prevent the spread of sexual transmitted diseases.

He indicated that circumcision had been practised by many African communities but it was, however, discontinued by King Shaka because it was associated with delays amongst the warriors who spent many months in the veld when he was in the process of building a standing Zulu army.

In his speech His Majesty said Umkhosi Wokweshwama coincided with the Campaign Against the Abuse of Women and Children. He called on men to stand up against the scourge. Since that announcement, traditional leaders have been very instrumental in ensuring the success of medical male circumcision in terms of mobilising izinduna, amagosa and communities in support of MMC camps.

As a result of the tireless work of His Majesty, government continued to work with traditional leaders and traditional healers to achieve the objectives of the HCT campaign which is aimed at reducing HIV infections as well as ensuring that eligible HIV-positive people are provided with ART.

Backing the fight against poverty

On the poverty alleviation front, His Majesty ensured that traditional leaders were part of government’s One Home One Garden campaign, a programme aimed at ensuring food security. This programme was launched during International Nelson Mandela Day on the July 18, 2009.

Under this programme, government utilised 100 hectares of land that His Majesty asked traditional leaders to make available for farming. He supported Operation Sukuma Sakhe and encouraged the appointment of members of the executive council as champions of rural development in districts. This improved the level of inter-governmental co-operation.

He argued that rural development had to be comprehensive, all-encompassing and not just about agriculture, communal gardens, women’s sewing and small poultry projects. He believed that rural development should be about creating sustainable economies that will absorb labour and reduce migration to urban centres in search of a better life.

In view of the recession that hit the country in 2008 and spiralling food prices which threatened food security, government identified agriculture as a catalyst for economic development. His Majesty supported government’s key focus on building self-sufficiency in agricultural production. He often convened meetings with the premier and his executive council wherein he offered his support for the land reform programmes.

He wanted government to create access to local and international markets for small- scale farmers, including agricultural co-operatives in rural areas across the province. He encouraged government to empower emerging farmers to use the Dube Trade Port Agri Processing Facility to export agricultural products to international markets.

As a result of the guidance from His Majesty, a special purpose vehicle, known as the Agribusiness Development Agency, was established by the KZN government in 2011 to support emerging black commercial farmers and rescue the land reform projects from collapse.

Our Culture and Heritage

As a custodian of our culture and heritage, Isilo Sama-bandla presided over cultural activities which served as the basis for promotion of our strong character and identity as the people of this province. These events stimulated the flow of tourists annually from all over the world and generated much-needed job opportunities for the people of this province, especially in rural areas.

As he always pointed out, it is through the acceptance and promotion of our culture and heritage that the people of KwaZulu-Natal can achieve harmony and live side by side as one people and one nation.

In one event he stated that the collective acceptance of our heritage and symbols will help us define our next steps in the fight for the creation of a strong and united nation.

On the same issue of the acceptance of our heritage and symbols, in 2010 the provincial government unveiled a Multi-Media Centre, a centre built on the precincts of King Dingane’s uMgungundlovu residence at Mkhumbane Valley – Emakhosini.

This place is known as the birth place of the Zulu nation. Incidentally, this is the place where the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief and more than 60y Voortrekkers were massacred by Dingane on February 6– 10 months before the bloody conflict of Ncome in December 1838.

This media centre is of strategic importance to the people of this province as it serves as a cultural and heritage attraction. It was constructed by this government to preserve and restore the history of the Zulu Kings which had been largely neglected by the past government who feared the inspirational value of such memorials for the oppressed communities.

King Dingane, Cetshwayo and Dinuzulu lie buried away from the Valley of Emakhosini. It is those three kings whose reign was seriously impacted upon by the arrival of the European settler regimes. For King Dingane the encounter with the Voortrekkers changed the course of history and his fate.

The subsequent clashes and bloodshed between the Zulu warriors and Voortrekkers resulted in the designation of December 16 as “Dingaan se dag” and subsequently the Day of the Covenant or “Gelofte dag” for the Afrikaner community. Under the new democratic government, December 16 is now known as Reconciliation Day.

We continued to celebrate this day with His Majesty always available to promote messages of peace, reconciliation and acceptance of all communities as contributors in the political, economic, social and other forms of development of our society.

Isilo undertook both national and international trips as a business ambassador for KZN. He built relationships with several heads of state and the international community. More importantly, Isilo received invitations from several heads of state, Royalty and Traditional Leaders from different countries across the world.

The Monarch has been hosted by and has been host to heads of stat, Royal family members, religious leaders and business leaders of international status from different parts of the world.

His Majesty hosted members of Royal Household families as well as several traditional leaders from countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast and Uganda to name but a few. These visits reflect the respect that many people of the world have for the institution and opened up possibilities of new relations for the benefit of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

Many potential investors have been addressed by the Monarch both inside the country and abroad, resulting in their desire to initiate investment programmes in KwaZulu-Natal.


| Sibiya is spokesperson for KZN Finance MEC: Nomusa Dube-Ncube

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