Zulu King’s remains arrive at palace, before burial


A light intermittent drizzle fell on Nongoma, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, as the mortal remains of the King Goodwill Zwelithini, the late leader of South Africa’s 12 million Amazulu, arrived at his royal palace ahead of his interment tonight.

Thousands of traditionally clad men, members of Amabutho – regiments – and bare-chested maidens, descended on Nongoma to bid farewell King Zwelithini.

The majority of the members of Amabutho and the maidens were not wearing masks and not keeping a safe distance, in violation of national COVID-19 restrictions.

The shield and spear-wielding men as well as maidens dressed in traditional regalia sang and danced in celebration of a King who has led the Amazulu nation for five decades. They formed a guard of honour as the King’s mortal remains were transported from the mortuary to KwaKethomthandayo Royal Palace.

The arrival of the thousands to pay their respects to King Zwelithini is also in violation of advice from the Amazulu royal family.

Yesterday, Prince Mangosuth Buthelezi, the King’s prime minister and family spokesman, disclosed that the family has sought help from the South African government to put measures in place to stop the thousands who the family heard were preparing to violate COVID-19 restrictions to pay respect to the King.

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“This pandemic has wreaked havoc in our nation. We must do our utmost to protect one another. It will not only be illegal but unconscionable  to allow a large gathering in this time. It is extraordinary to bury a King in this manner, in the absence of thousands of mourners. I know that there are many subjects of the King who are not happy. I have already been in touch with our government with regard to certain individuals who have indicated that they plan to break down lockdown restrictions and COVID-19 protocols and descend on Nongoma in large numbers. Measures have been put in place to avert this. Let me state categorically that our late beloved King’s funeral can never be used as an excuse to break protocols and regulations,” Buthelezi said. 

King Zwelithini will be laid to rest tonight in a secret and sacred burial, attended by a select group of a few men, in line with tradition, the royal house has confirmed.

Prince Mangosutho Buthelezi, a spokesperson for the family, the burial will be held in line with King Zwelithini’s wishes as well as ancient tradition of the royal family. No media will be allowed at the burial.

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“As per His Majesty’s wishes, his mortal remains will be interred in a private burial. This will be done by a small number of men close to the King, fulfilling old tradition. The burial will not be attended or broadcast by any media. The public ceremony honouring His Majesty will take place on Thursday morning and is being arranged together with the government as President Ramaphosa kindly agreed to transform the Special Category One funeral into a memorial prayer service,” Buthelezi said.

Buthelezi said the family has also secured agreement from the South African government to turn Thursday’s event – initially designed as the funeral – into a memorial service. President Ramaphosa, who honoured Zwelithini with an official funeral – is expected to deliver a keynote address at the memorial.

The Amazulu King, who has been on the throne for 50 years, died on Friday from diabetes-related complications.

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