King Goodwill Zwelithini’s 'planting’ brings curtain down on a colourful reign
Durban - THE little northern KwaZulu-Natal rural town of Nongoma this week welcomed thousands of people from all walks of life from around the globe who came to bid farewell to a giant African monarch.
Having ruled his Zulu nation for close to 50 years, following his coronation as a 23 year old on December 3, 1971, King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu took his last breath on Friday March 12.
He was 72 years old.
His Majesty’s bowing out brought the curtain down on a colourful reign of close to half a century.
Since the news of his passing was beamed across the country, continent and world at large on that fateful Friday morning.
The King’s Nongoma town became the place to be for the who’s who of politics, business, different sectors of society to ordinary folk from all walks of life.
For a week for scores of people, from heads of state, premiers, cabinet ministers, MECs, political party leaders, kings and queens and their throngs of security personnel to the colourful amatshitshi (Zulu maidens) and amabutho (Zulu warriors or regiments) to a bevy of journalists, Nongoma was the go-to area.
The sprawling lawns outside KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace, perched in the hills on the outskirts of the town, became home as they descended on the palace to carry out different assignments related to bidding farewell to a giant of not only the Zulu nation but Africans spread across the length and breadth of the country and the continent.
From the day of the king’s departure, as a parting gift to His Majesty, the scores of high profile guests and amakhosi arrived at the palace with cattle in trucks and trailers pulled by vans.
Fears that Nongoma could become the epicentre of a third wave of the Covid-19 came to the fore on Wednesday after thousands of amabutho and amatshitshi took to the town’s main street as they accompanied the king’s body from the local mortuary to the palace.
However, so revered and adored by his people was His Majesty that they braved the very possible scenario of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, to say their farewell to an extraordinary giant of Zulu culture and traditions.
Concerns about events around his burial, known as ukutshalwa in isiZulu, were secondary to many of His Majesty with Mgilija Hlophe, the senior commander of the Zulu regiments, infamously saying that they would not be denied by the government their right to give the king a fitting send off.
Throughout the week Nongoma mayor Albert Mncwango was at pains to explain that the local council, in conjunction with both the provincial and national government, had done all in its power to ensure that Covid-19 health protocols were adhered to but acknowledged that it was an almost impossible task.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said those who raised concerns and fears that the gathering could be a super spreader were nothing but fear-mongers.
Holomisa told this publication that “you cannot expect that a king will be buried by 50 people, no please”.
“That’s just a scarecrow man, we have been told that we must wear masks, sanitise, social distancing.
“Everybody I’ve seen here is wearing masks, which means they’ve heeded the call.
“As long as people are complying, distance, mask, sanitising and so far everybody I’ve seen here is sticking to the policy,” Holomisa said.
However, when the dust has finally settled following the hectic week, it remains to be seen in the coming weeks whether there truly was adherence to Covid-19 regulations and protocols.