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King Goodwill Zwelithini's burial a divisive issue for Zulu royals

The late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini .Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

The late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini .Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Mar 15, 2021


Durban - Contradicting reports on how Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini will be buried have further highlighted the deepening rifts in the Zulu monarchy.

On Sunday at KwaKhethomthandayo royal palace in Nongoma two contradictory announcements were made to the public.

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The first announcement came from Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi in his capacity as the traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation who early in the day told the media at the palace that the king, as per his wish, would be buried in a private ceremony attended only by men and at night.

Buthelezi said this was the late king's wish and two of his recently departed sons, Prince Butho and Prince Lethukuthula were also buried at night.

"He said he would like to be buried at night and only by men. So we agreed with the royal family that his wish should be granted. And that will happen in private," Buthelezi announced.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa granted the king a State funeral, Buthelezi said that would be turned into a memorial service. "On Thursday, there will be a memorial service to remember the king," Buthelezi clarified.

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As the palace was receiving guests, an announcement came that there would be a press conference by the royal family.

When it finally took place, the press conference was addressed by Prince Mbonisi KaBhekuzulu and Princess Thembi KaBhekuzulu. Sticking to a statement written in Zulu, the prince said the king would be buried according to their traditions on Thursday and on the same day there would be a memorial service contradicting Buthelezi.

"At this stage, we wish to announce that His Majesty will be planted on the 18th March 2021. Regarding the Planting of His Majesty, we will follow traditional Zulu customs which will be attended by Amakhosi and other traditional structures. Covid-19 protocols will be followed. We are encouraged by messages in acknowledgement of the importance of fulfilling our traditional Zulu customs in line with the teachings of His Majesty," he said.

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On the issue of the memorial service, the prince said it would be hosted at the main palace in Nongoma.

“A memorial service will also be held on the 18th March at KwaKhethomthandayo Palace. The nation will gather to celebrate His Majesty as a Champion of Unity of his people We will celebrate the king as champion of development. The nation will reflect on his role as a father who had deep love for his people.

“He was a custodian of the Zulu culture and customs and often preached responsible behaviour as we build this nation. On the day of the memorial service, we will remind each other of the importance of ensuring that young people are guided through the challenges and difficulties they encounter because of their stage of development. We will use the memorial service to remind the people of this province of his many other teachings.”

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The two senior royals said they would not be taking questions even though some of their announcements were not clear and all other information would be relayed to the public from today (Monday).

Buthelezi then issued a prompt statement and said he was taken aback by the press conference because it was not sanctioned within the royal family.

“... We are advised that a press conference has been called at the Royal Palace, where I am right now, “on behalf of the Royal Family”, yet the family has not been made aware of this. It is unfortunate that in a time such as this, there will be differences of opinion on how matters should be handled, despite clear protocols which are known to all,” Buthelezi said in a statement countering the press conference.

He insisted that the king’s burial would be on Wednesday.

“As His Majesty will now be interred in a private burial on Wednesday, the funeral has been amended to a memorial prayer service, to take place on Thursday,” he said.

Video: Sihle Mavuso

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Political Bureau