Amabutho kaZulu surrounded the vehicle carrying Zulu King Zwelithini’s body as it was released from Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital to his Palace in KwaNongoma yesterday. Picture: Nhlanhla Mtaka.
Amabutho kaZulu surrounded the vehicle carrying Zulu King Zwelithini’s body as it was released from Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital to his Palace in KwaNongoma yesterday. Picture: Nhlanhla Mtaka.

Covid-19 to limit attendees at the King’s funeral

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Mar 13, 2021

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SIBONISO MNGADI

Covid-19 regulation will deprive thousands of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s subjects and dignitaries from paying their last respect as funeral proceedings are expected to change from the normal send off due to the pandemic.

Amabutho kaZulu surrounded the vehicle carrying Zulu King Zwelithini’s body as it was released from Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital to his Palace in KwaNongoma yesterday. Picture: Nhlanhla Mtaka.

The lying in state process was overturned yesterday by the royal family fearing that people would gather in numbers to view the king's body posing a risk to contract the virus.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch, has discouraged people from flocking into the king’s palaces to send their condolences while funeral arrangements were underway.

“We are faced with the reality that South Africa and the world remain within the grip of a deadly pandemic. The national regulations which are in place, restricting the number of people who may gather, cannot be contravened, even in a time of extraordinary distress.

“It would be unconscionable to allow His Majesty’s passing to become the cause of further deaths among His Majesty’s people. It has therefore been necessary to take the difficult decision for the late King not to be laid in state.

“I therefore appeal, on behalf of the family, for mourners not to travel to Nongoma to pay their respects. It is vital that we avoid crowds gathering at this time, as this would place lives in jeopardy,” he said.

While Buthelezi had warned the public not to converge in numbers, as of yesterday, the Zulu Royal palaces in Nongoma, in the northern KwaZulu-Natal were thronged by mourners, including ordinary people and dignitaries to extend their condolences to the royal family.

The KZN executive council led by Premier Sihle Zikalala will visit the Royal Palace today to pay their respect on behalf of the government.

Zikalala had formed a provincial task to assist with funeral arrangements.

King Zwelithini died, aged 72, at the specialised Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban on Friday.

He was the longest-serving Zulu monarch having ruled for almost 50 years of the 205 years since the powerful Zulu nation was founded by King Shaka KaSenzangakhona in 1816.

King Zwelithini was hospitalised in early February to attend to high Glucose levels. Doctors preferred that he be treated in ICU to attend to his condition thoroughly, Buthelezi said at the time.

Buthelezi said as the King was widely known as diabetic, his unstable glucose had been treated with particular caution due to the risk that diabetes posed under the pandemic.

On the King’s cause of death, Buthelezi revealed that he contracted the Covid-19 virus while he was treated in hospital.

Yesterday, the King’s remains were moved from Durban to the Zululand mortuary via his Palace while funeral arrangements are being finalised.

Amabutho, (A group of men clad in traditional attire) gathered outside the hospital, chanting amahubo as the hearse carrying the king’s body, followed by a motorcade, left the hospital.

The motorcade arrived in Nongoma just after 3 pm and everything was brought to a standstill as a sign of respect.

The remains were taken to his Kwakhethomthandayo Palace which he inherited from his father, the late King Bhekuzulu ka Solomon.

It was later taken to the Zululand mortuary.

Although King Zwelithini had strong relations with other monarchs, including the British Royal Family, it was not clear who was likely to attend the funeral given the Covid-19 regulations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had declared that King Zwelithini would be accorded a Special Official Funeral Category 1.

Buthelezi said it must be emphasised, however, that even state funerals have to adhere to the present protocols restricting numbers.

“The Royal House itself has numbers above what would be allowed in terms of regulations. It is therefore essential to impress upon people that the funeral will not be open for all to attend. As a Special Official Funeral, it will be broadcast live so that the nation might honour His Majesty from their homes. We ask, with all due respect, that mourners, therefore, stay at home and use this time to pray,” said Buthelezi.

The date of the funeral was yet to be confirmed.

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