There has been an outpouring of grief, shock and mourning in the Zulu nation following the passing of former Zulu regiments leader, Mlandeni Mgilija Nhleko, who shot to fame during the traditional burial of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini in March this year.
Nhleko passed away late on Monday in hospital following months of treatment for cancer. A few months ago, the spokesperson of the Nhleko family, Seth Nhleko, told Independent Media that they were working on raising funds to get him special medical care in a private hospital.
The Nhleko family was still mum last night about the passing, with one insider saying the challenge was that they still wanted to formally communicate the bereavement to the Zulu King, Misuzulu KaZwelithini and the nation’s traditional prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Nhleko made a name for himself when he meticulously commanded a legion of Zulu regiments during the burial of the late Zulu King. The regiment’s colourful display of Zulu culture started when they escorted the body of the late King out of King Edward hospital in Durban, attracting public attention with people saying the Zulu culture was still intact.
BREAKING: The former leader of Zulu regiments, Mgilija Nhleko, has passed away. Nhleko who shot to fame when Zulu regiments paid their last respect during the burial of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, has been sick for months and at some point he needed a special operation. pic.twitter.com/I5CBUTR8lE— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) November 8, 2021
Their colourful display later played out in Nongoma when the regiments welcomed the body home and escorted it to KwaKhathomthandayo palace before he was later secretly buried at night.
However, Nhleko later suffered reputational damage in July this year when he led Zulu regiments to support former president Jacob Zuma in Nkandla just a few days before Zuma surrendered to start his jail sentence in Estcourt.
That angered the Zulu royal council and Buthelezi. The Osuthu royal council eventually fired him from his position when it emerged that he questioned the legitimacy of King Misuzulu as the King of the nation.
Among those who were first to publicly mourn Nhleko’s passing was the Injenje Yabenguni Council, which said the late leader was a shining light in terms of Zulu culture.
“His passing evokes great sadness and indeed anger amongst many as we feel robbed of a proud glistening Nguni gem whose sparkle remains unsurpassed amongst his peers. A sizeable number of the Nguni youth have been inspired by the Commander ever since the late Majesty King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu appointed him Commander of the Zulu regiments.
“Whilst there has been unsavoury sinister attempts by some to tarnish his image in the public domain. However, these feeble attempts failed as he remains the most highly respected Zulu Regiment Commander of this generation world over. While he may physically no longer be among us, his spirit shall live on in us for all eternity,” the council said in a statement.
Also mourning Nhleko’s passing was the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and scores of prominent figures in the province.