Former president Thabo Mbeki speaking at Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu 's funeral. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Willowvale - Former president Thabo Mbeki has described Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu as “an outstanding leader” with great ambition of uplifting the people of his nation and said the AmaXhosa feel like “orphans” in losing their king.  

Mbeki was speaking at the king’s funeral at Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale in the Eastern Cape on Friday morning.

Among the dignitaries attending the funeral are President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife Tshepo Motsepe and ministers. 

Mbeki thanked Ramaphosa for honouring the king with a Special Official Funeral Category 1.

“Thank you to President Cyril Ramaphosa for honouring King Zwelonke by giving him a State Funeral. Sometime before he passed away he told me he wants to meet me so that we speak on things concerning him in his nation,” Mbeki said.

“It was not so long ago when we buried King Xolilizwe (the king’s father). It was not so long ago when we hosted a ceremony for King’s Zwelonke’s coronation. We feel like orphans. We lost an outstanding leader,” said Mbeki.

The funeral of Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu is under way at Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale, Eastern Cape. Picture: Bheki Radebe/African News Agency (ANA)

Political analyst Prof Somadoda Fikeni, speaking on the history of Xhosa kingdom, says the Xhosa nation contributed immensely to the Struggle against apartheid. Fikeni mentioned traditional leaders like Chief Jongumsobomvu Maqoma and King Hintsa kaKhawuta as some of the leaders who fought the apartheid regime.  

“We need to give respect and acknowledgement of the role played by traditional leaders of the Xhosa nation,” said Fikeni.

The funeral of Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu is underway at Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale, Eastern CapePicture: Bheki Radebe/African News Agency (ANA)

Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe from the Rharhabe Royal House, the support house of amaXhosa’s Phalo House, said King Zwelonke had so much respect for people. “He was a great unifier and we would really like the East London airport to change its name to King Phalo Airport. He really liked his mother tongue. We will remember him for his efforts of bringing dignity to the people of amaXhosa,” said Burns-Ncamashe.

Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy at the funeral.