Queen Regent Mantfombi comes home for burial amid fears of fresh tension in Zulu monarch
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Nongoma - The late Zulu nation's Queen Regent, Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, was brought to KwaKhangela palace on Wednesday evening for the last time before she is buried at the crack of dawn on Thursday.
The 65-year-old will be buried according to the Swati royal culture of wrapping one in a cow's hide. Per her wish, she will not go to the Zulu royal graveyard of Makhosini near Ulundi.
The process of Wednesday's homecoming started in Johannesburg on Wednesday when a high-powered delegation, comprising Zulu and Swati royals, made the long trek to fetch her body from the Hillbrow mortuary. After performing royal rituals there, her body was taken aboard a convoy.
The convoy was the centre of attention as the three Zulu regiments of women, maidens and men escorted it out of the city for the six-hour journey to the palace in Nongoma.
In preparation for the arrival of the queen's body, another batch of regiments, in full traditional gear, waited outside the palace. They solemnly sang traditional mourning songs in accordance with the passing of the daughter of King Sobhuza of Eswatini and sister to King Mswati.
Among those singing in the crowd was a praise singer who heaped praise on the late queen, saying her role in the royal court would be cherished forever.
"Go well, Mlangeni (Dlamini's praise name). You gave the Zulu nation and monarch dignity, you played a role in reviving some of our cultures. You fought a good fight. Your role in the palace will be cherished forever," the praise singer sang repeatedly.
A few minutes before 6pm, the convoy from Johannesburg emerged from the river near the palace and the singing gained momentum.
As the late queen played a role in reviving the female regiment, they took over the role of escorting the body into the palace.
In a solemn procession led by the female regiment, Isiphithiphithi, the queen's body arrived at the last gate within the palace and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the king and Zulu nation's traditional prime minister was waiting for her.
Buthelezi was with senior royal family and some of the queen's children, among them Prince Bambindlovu. With them was a white goat which was used to perform welcome-home rituals.
"Your royal highness, welcome to your palace… as you go, we wish you well and safe passage," Buthelezi said as part of the centuries-old Nguni culture of welcoming the deceased home and to their resting places.
After that, only close royal members were allowed into the palace.
There are fears that immediately after her burial, the royal court will be served with court papers from King Goodwill Zwelithini's first wife, Queen Sibongile Dlamini (not related to the late queen). She wants to halt the process of distributing the late king's estate and the appointment of a regent.
Dlamini is arguing that, as the first wife who married the king in 1969 through civil rites and in community of property, she must get 50% of the king's estate.
Supporting her in the legal battle are her two daughters, Princess Ntando and Princess Ntombizosuthu, who, separately, want the king's will to be set aside. They say it has been altered and some of the signatures are dubious.
The legal battle is one of the few headaches in the royal house as senior Princess Thembi and Prince Mbonisi are at loggerheads with Buthelezi, saying he is imposing himself in royal affairs and has sidelined them.
In one of the public spats on Monday, the princess told Buthelezi that his time as prime minister ended with the passing of King Cyprian Bhekuzulu in September 1968.
Hitting back, and escalating the tension, Buthelezi accused the princess of lying since she told the Nhlapho commission that he was still in the position.
"What Princess Thembi is doing is shameful because we were with her during the Nhlapho commission chaired by Professor Nhlapho who was looking at issues of traditional leadership in entire South Africa. Talking to a royal delegation sent by the king (Goodwill Zwelithini) which she was part of and asked whether the position of (traditional) still exist or not. When Professor Nhlapho asked that question, the royal delegation looked at each other in the eyes and said Princess Thembi must answer the question as a senior princess.
“Princess Thembi said, during the reign of her father King Dinuzulu, she knew that the prime minister was the prince of KwaPhingangene, referring to me and proceeded to say even under the current king, her understanding is that I am still the one, Princess Thembi said that herself,” Buthelezi hit back.