A final farewell for the Zulu king: From health turns to unifying the Zulu nation in mourning

19 March 2021 - 07:24 By cebelihle bhengu
Among the delegation were members of the royal family, leaders and Zulu traditional prime minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who all greeted the arrival of the coffin in a marquee outside the palace with 'Bayede! Bayede! Wena wendlovu'.
Among the delegation were members of the royal family, leaders and Zulu traditional prime minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who all greeted the arrival of the coffin in a marquee outside the palace with 'Bayede! Bayede! Wena wendlovu'.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

South Africans said their final farewells to Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini on Thursday during a memorial service broadcast from KwaKhethomthandayo royal palace in Nongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The king was buried in a midnight private funeral attended by a select number of male members of the royal family.

The king died last Friday from Covid-19-related complications.

Having been installed as the eighth monarch of the Zulus in December 1971, he ruled the kingdom for almost 50 years.

Here's a wrap of events leading to his passing:

February 7: King treated in ICU for diabetes

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, IFP founder and traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch, said the king had been taken to ICU where he was receiving treatment for diabetes. Buthelezi said the king had had “several unstable glucose readings”. 

February 11: Cyril Ramaphosa wishes the king good health 

President Cyril Ramaphosa wished the king a speedy recovery during the delivery of his State of the Nation Address.

“I wish to convey my wishes for the speedy recovery of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu. Our thoughts and prayers are with the royal household and the Zulu nation at this time.”

March 12: King Goodwill Zwelithini dies 

Buthelezi issued a statement announcing the passing of the king. He said his health had taken a turn for the worse while he was still hospitalised.

“Tragically, while still in hospital, His Majesty’s health took a turn for the worse and he subsequently passed away in the early hours of this morning.”

On Tuesday Buthelezi told a media briefing the king would be buried on Wednesday night in line with his wishes.

March 12: Tributes, and politicians visit the royal palace 

Ramaphosa said he would remember King Zwelithini for his contribution to cultural identity, national unity, economic development in KwaZulu-Natal and the development of SA.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the Zulu monarch had played a critical role in raising awareness about HIV/Aids in the past.

Thousands flocked to social media to convey their condolences to the royal family.

Former president Jacob Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema were some of the politicians who visited the royal palace to pay their respects. Zuma said the king was a unifier who welcomed everyone.

“He was a loving king,” said the former president.

18 March: Ramaphosa says South Africans must continue the king's legacy

Reading the king's eulogy during the memorial service on Thursday, Ramaphosa said: “Our nation has suffered a great loss. But let us pick up his spear and continue on our quest to build a better SA.”

The president described King Zwelithini as a defender of his people and the Zulu culture and traditions.

“His majesty had faith in his country and its future. He had the faith to believe that we as a people and as a nation would win the battle for development, progress and social justice,” he said.


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