Durban – For the first time since the dawn of democracy in 1994, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, will not open the KwaZulu-Natal legislature as per the institution's decades-old tradition.
The king, who is diabetic, is currently indisposed and was admitted at one of the provincial hospitals early this month after his perennially troublesome glucose levels unexpectedly shot up.
Normally, the legislature has a two-legged opening ceremony.
On the first day the King gives a speech from the Zulu throne and blesses the opening for the year ahead.
A day later, the premier of the time then gives his or her State of the Province address (Sopa).
This time around only Premier Sihle Zikalala will give a speech on Friday and the King's speech which was billed for Thursday has been cancelled.
On Wednesday the legislature's speaker, Nontembeko Boyce issued a statement saying the King asked to be excused citing his ongoing health challenges.
"We have been preparing for the address by His Majesty as well as the state of the province address to run over a period of two days.
“On Tuesday February 23 the Speaker received a formal letter informing the legislature that, on medical advice, His Majesty will not be able to address the house.
“We value the pivotal role played by His Majesty.
“As the legislature, we work extremely well with His Majesty and recognise that the guidance and counsel he provides to the legislature and government is invaluable.
“We take this opportunity to wish the monarch a speedy recovery.
"May I indicate that the standing rules of the legislature were crafted such that the business of the legislature is not constrained by unforeseen eventualities such as the indisposition of a key stakeholder such as the monarch.
“Accordingly, our session this year will only comprise the state of the province address by the Premier," Boyce said.
As the King's health has become a public concern across the country, some social media users recently started circulating rumours that he had passed away.
That prompted Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu monarch’s traditional prime minister, to set the record straight and condemn the fake news spreaders.
Buthelezi said the King was very much alive and said it was painful for him that some people were spreading fake news about the head of the Zulu royalty.