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Buthelezi confirms Zulu King’s death was Covid-related, lays bare conflict over funeral

Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi shocked mourners at kwaKhethomthandayo palace when he revealed ongoing tensions at the Zulu royal house. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi shocked mourners at kwaKhethomthandayo palace when he revealed ongoing tensions at the Zulu royal house. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 13, 2021


Sihle Mavuso

Durban - After swirling allegations that there are tensions within the Zulu royal house between Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi and princes over how the burial of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini should be conducted, the secret is finally out.

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The royal secrets were brought into the open by Buthelezi, the traditional Prime Minister of the late King, during an extraordinary meeting he had with princes, princesses, Amakhosi and local mayors.

The meeting took place shortly after the king's body arrived in Nongoma in preparation for his burial.

Buthelezi, who was also the king's cousin, first started the meeting outside KwaKhethomthandayo palace by recounting the last days of the king while he was in hospital. He said the king was attended by 20 doctors and died of Covid-19.

Buthelezi also revealed that he nearly dumped his traditional role to bury the king after meeting fierce opposition within the royal house.

He said he was shocked when he heard that one prince told a news broadcaster that the king’s body would lie in state even though they have a doctor’s confirmation that he died of Covid-19.

He linked that decision to a brewing rebellion where some princes wanted him to be sidelined. As a result of that, he said he was planning to pull out of the historic process but he changed his mind after talking to Police Minister Bheki Cele and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

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“All of you are aware that big families always have squabbles. Despite prior arrangement that since the king died of Covid-19. I heard that some within the family wanted that to be completely ignored. They wanted his body to be taken to Nyokeni (palace), taken to KwaDlamahlahla, taken to Linduzulu and lastly here at home (KwaKhethomthandayo). I do this work, even under difficult times.

“I phoned Ministers Cele and Mkhize and asked them to stop this from happening (the public of the body and taking it to palaces). I also called prince Qedi, I called Prince of Ezibindini, and told them that I am no longer coming here if they take the king’s body to all these palaces without my knowledge. Mkhize asked me to stop, but as you see me, I nearly pulled out because I have already taken a decision. Fortunately, Mkhize averted this. Even I don’t know what they are doing with the body,” Buthelezi, who often shed tears while addressing the meeting, said.

He also revealed that, at some point, royals tension threatened the life of the king and they once rejoiced that there was a fallout between him and the king.

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“One prince told me that some princes once ganged up against the king, and accused him of not taking care of them but looking after Gatsha. The king got angry and asked them what are they doing for him in order for him to look after them,” he recalled.

As if that was not enough, Buthelezi revealed past tensions between him and the late king. He said while they had their fallouts, he had forgiven the king and the reason why he was speaking out was that he did not want to die holding a grudge and he wanted the king to depart in peace. He told the meeting that he was hurt that in 2017 the late King told a birthday celebration that while he was in power, he did nothing to protect him.

“I addressed that issue within the royal house, and I am happy to address it. I don’t know what I have done to you (princes) because I am your blood relative, I don’t know what I have done to you. I heard that even on the day he said this some of you who were present some of you rejoiced and said the King has lashed at him. The prince of Ezibindini Royal House even asked what has he done to be lashed like this,” he said.

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Despite all these challenges, Buthelezi held a meeting with the royals to set a date for the King’s burial and other pertinent matters.

Political Bureau