Xhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu chose to celebrate his 50th birthday with his people to set an example of people-oriented leadership and to reach out to the poor. Picture: Unathi Kondile/ANA

Willowvale - Instead of sitting at his Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale, Eastern Cape, to enjoy the perks that come with being the monarch, Xhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu has declared this year his “birthday year” with the purpose of reaching out to the poor.

On Wednesday, Sigcawu was celebrating his 50th birthday at a royal function hosted at East London’s Regent Hotel.

The event was attended by top politicians and businessmen, symbolising an affair befitting the king.

“I don’t believe in the notion of celebrating birthdays but this year when my committee put together a programme to celebrate my half-a-century birthday, I decided to celebrate with my people,” Sigcawu said.

To celebrate, Sigcawu has identified a lot of projects aimed at alleviating poverty in the Xhosa nation. Details of the King Zwelonke Legacy Projects, which would range from agriculture to women and youth co-operatives, will be announced in Nqadu on April 21.

“The people that I am leading are in poverty, which is a reason why I chose not to celebrate my birthday alone. The reason I am celebrating with my people is because I want to set an example of people-oriented leader.

"Government services are not going at the pace we envisaged, hence we need various interventions,” Sigcawu said.

Sigcawu’s spokesperson, Chief Xolile Ndevu, as part of the “birthday year” celebrations, said the Xhosa monarch would visit the UK.

“This will take place in June. Remember King Zwelonke’s ancestor King Hintsa kaKhawuta was killed and beheaded by British forces. We want closure on this matter, hence the visit to establish relations with British stakeholders,” said Ndevu.

King Hintsa was killed by British forces along the banks of Nqabara River in 1835.

It is believed his head was taken by the forces as a symbol that Xhosa people had been defeated on their resistance over land invasion.

Cape Times