Durban - The countries of the UN and others have joined the South African people in paying tribute to King Goodwill Zwelithini.
King Zwelithini died at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital from Covid-19 related complications on Friday morning and his death has has come as a shock.
In Africa, King Zwelithini was particularly remembered for his humility by the neighbouring kingdoms.
UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres remembered him as such when sent condolences to the people of South Africa and the royal family.
The US embassy in South Africa also paid tribute to the king. “During his over 50-year reign, King Zwelithini was a strong steward and custodian of Zulu traditions and customs. King Zwelithini played a crucial role in cultural programmes and initiatives aimed at promoting social cohesion among the diverse groups in the Kwazulu-natal province.”
The former US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks said: “I’m saddened to hear of the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini Kabhekuzulu. In 2019, I had the honour of visiting his home in Kwazulu-natal, where we discussed his leadership towards HIV epidemic control. May his memory be a blessing to the entire Amazulu nation.”
Yesterday, Marks posted pictures of her first official visit to the Royal Palace on Twitter saying: “From my time with King Goodwill Zwelithini.
He told me I was the first US ambassador to visit the Amazulu Palace in Kwazulu. Had difficulty with my highheel shoes, so walked barefoot to the royal kraal — he laughed and called me a true Daughter of the Soil.”
“My condolences to the Zulu people on the passing of King Goodwill Zwelithini. Just last weekend I visited the epic Zulu war battlefields in Kwazulu, place of heaven, which helped put the courage and pride of the Zulu nation on the global map. May his Majesty rest in peace,” said the Australian High Commissioner Gita Kamath.
Prince Albert of Monaco and Princess Charlene said they were saddened to hear of the passing of the king. “Beyond the collaboration with the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, King Zwelithini was a close personal friend of Princess Charlene.”
Residents of the Birland State at Bir Tawil, a no-man’s land on the Egypt and Sudan border, said they were grief stricken and sent their support and sympathy to the country.
Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union yesterday described King Zwelithini as an embodiment of the teachings of African languages.
General secretary Mugwena Maluleke also said: “A custodian of Zulu traditions and customs, he ensured these were observed but also moved with times to ensure that the Zulu nation adopted progressive customs like the circumcision of young men as a response in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”
Revered monarch spoke his mind
As tributes poured in for King Goodwill Zwelithini since his death on Friday, many of his praise singers lauded the monarch for his ability to easily mingle with commoners.
While the king was celebrated for his affable nature, he was also known to speak his mind when he felt compelled to. Given how the king was revered by his subjects, the 10-million strong Zulu nation, his word was treated as gospel.
The king was blamed for sparking a wave of xenophobic attacks which began on March 30, 2015, after his address at an imbizo in Pongola, KZN.
Many interpreted the king as calling for foreigners to leave, which the monarch denied, and distanced himself from the violence that ensued.
The violence that spread to various parts of Durban, after it was triggered in Isipingo, claimed the lives of at least five people and many, mainly foreigners, were displaced.
At a subsequent mass gathering King Zwelithini insisted that his comments had been taken out of context by the media. He labelled xenophobic violence as “vile” and said if he did call for foreigners to be killed, the country would have been reduced to ashes.
King Zwelithini refused to respond to questions posed by a task-team led by Judge Navi Pillay and set-up by the then premier, Senzo Mchunu. He was adamant that his submission to the SA Human Rights Commission over the issue was sufficient.
The king also remained unmoved over the governance of Ingonyama Trust, the body that had him listed as the sole trustee and owned nearly 3 million hectares of tribal land in KZN. A call for the scrapping or reformation of the trust was made by a high-level panel appointed by parliament, in conjunction with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel. Ramaphosa did not heed their recommendation. Instead, he tasked an inter ministerial committee to look into trust affairs last year.
The king appealed to each of his subjects to donate R5 for possible legal costs to challenge attempts to squash the trust.
In July 2018, during an imbizo, the king said: “Our kingdom is here to stay and your land is going nowhere as long as I’m alive.”
Even if King Zwelithini needed to issue a stern rebuke on corruption at the ruling ANC, the monarch would not hold back. Late last year, during the Reed Dance, the king spoke out against those who had pocketed Covid-19 funds that were meant for the poor. He also outed perpetrators of gender-based violence at the same event he said he was ashamed at the actions of some.