King Goodwill Zwelithini hosts Diwali celebration

08 October 2017 - 15:56 By Bongani Mthethwa
King Goodwill Zwelithini. File photo.
King Goodwill Zwelithini. File photo.

The sights and sounds of Diwali celebrations filtered through the Linduzulu palace in Nongoma‚ northern KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday as Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini hosted the festival of lights for the first time.

But it was not an idea borne from the king’s own mind.

Instead‚ it came at the suggestion of businessman Ishwar Ramlutchman – a man who‚ despite a dodgy past‚ shares a perhaps surprisingly close relationship with Zwelithini.

Ramlutchman counts a tribute from late president Nelson Mandela as one of his achievements and is proud to have worked with high-profile politicians such as President Jacob Zuma and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

But what stands out about the Richards Bay businessman - who was convicted for fraud and corruption for illegally acquiring tenders worth R52-million - is his close relationship with Zwelithini.

He is even a member of the king’s royal military regiment.

So close is Ramlutchman to the Zulu monarch that he even allowed him to write a book about him called “A tribute to the King of the Zulu Nation” which is about Zwelithini’s life‚ his leadership and legacy. And during this year’s annual Shaka Day commemoration in KwaDukuza on the North Coast‚ the philanthropist presented the king with a bronze bust‚ which was installed at the KwaDukuza Museum.

The controversial 41-year-old businessman‚ who is also an ANC benefactor‚ has been seen at Zwelithini’s side for more than a decade‚ either to mark Shaka Day‚ the annual Reed Dance or any other royal family events. He said he was “mesmerised” by Zwelithini while growing up in KwaDukuza and thereafter attended every King Shaka Day celebration.

In 2013‚ Ramlutchman was convicted on 21 counts of fraud and one of corruption for supplying false information to acquire tenders worth over R52-million. He paid a R500‚000 fine after he pleaded guilty to defrauding the KwaZulu-Natal public works department using forged tender documents.

He was awarded 16 contracts between May 2006 and August 2008‚ which included work at 14 schools and two hospitals.

His assets‚ consisting of properties in Ballito and La Lucia‚ as well as 26 luxury vehicles‚ including seven Mercedes-Benzes‚ a BMW 5 series and a Toyota Fortuner‚ were seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit as a result of a restraint order from the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

In 2016‚ Zwelithini appointed him to one of his military regiments‚ and he is now known as Prince Ishwar Ramlutchman Mabheka Zulu.

Zwelithini said of him: “To the hundreds of Zulu regiments‚ Ishwar is not an Indian but as they call him he is ‘umfowethu’ (brother) or insizwa enye [remarkable young man] which is a great affirmation that he is one of them.”

At the time there was uproar from some members of the royal family about Ramlutchman’s new status as the king’s “son” and a “prince”.

Zwelithini said the honour was bestowed on Ralutchman because of his efforts at social cohesion‚ respect for everyone’s cultural heritage and religion.

In return‚ Ramlutchman‚ who is fluent in isiZulu‚ has embraced Zulu culture and during traditional royal ceremonies always wears traditional Zulu attire complete with ibheshu [cow hide]‚ isicoco [leopard-skin headgear]‚ a shield and a spear.

Ramlutchman said Saturday’s Diwali celebration was attended by Indians from Ladysmith‚ Johannesburg‚ Durban and Richards Bay as well as members of the Khoisan community.

Ramlutchman said Zwelithini had described Diwali as a “unifying force” that must be celebrated by all South Africans.

"This is a milestone in the history of the Zulu monarch and our country at large‚” said Ramlutchman.