KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, has paid an emotional tribute to King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu, describing him as a custodian of culture and repository for customs and traditions.
The news of the King’s passing this morning after a battle with ill health has seen tributes streaming in from all over the nation.
“Today, we are a nation in sorrow, a nation in pain and a nation in mourning,” said Zikalala at a media briefing on Friday afternoon.
Zikalala described King Zwelithini as an inimitable symbol of unity, saying his passing has dealt a devastating blow to the people of the province. Zikalala said the King’s passing is a seminal moment for the province.
“Even though we knew the King was unwell, we had hoped that he will recover and continue to lead us as our loadstar and custodian of our way of life. His Majesty sadly departed in the early hours of this morning to the world beyond.
“His Majesty may have made the transition to the next world, but our pain will be alleviated by the lasting legacy that our Monarch left for us.
“Death has robbed us of our loadstar, who brightly lit the path to growth and development, made unity possible and sought lasting prosperity for the province of KwaZulu-Natal,” Zikalala said.
Zikalala said 12 March 2021 will be etched on the collective memory as a day on which “the sun set during the day in KwaZulu-Natal, as the Monarch breathed his last breath”.
“Our Monarch was our compass, pointing the way as a custodian of our culture and tradition, a repository for all our customs and traditions.”
Zikalala said for five decades in South Africa’s ever-changing socio-political and cultural landscape, the internationally-renowned Monarch has been a constant, enduring, influential and unshakeable force for positive change, and an ever-shining symbol of hope and unity.
“It is indeed an extraordinary burden that fate and the mysterious forces of nature, which dictate the beginning and ending of life, have placed on us to be the generation that bears the responsibility to announce something as heavy and heart-breaking as the demise of our beloved Monarch.
“We have lost the father and pillar of our nation, who placed himself forward as our unique torch-bearer during some of the darkest times that this country has ever seen.
“We have entered a period of profound sadness in the history of KwaZulu-Natal and indeed, that of the country.”
Zikalala said King Zwelithini made history as the longest serving among the Kings of the Zulu Nation, but also presided over the nation during some of the most tumultuous and difficult periods in history.
“His Majesty played a key role in the consolidation of post-apartheid South Africa into a democracy that recognised the diversity of our country, and will be remembered for his role as an apolitical, non-partisan and uniting Monarch above the different political parties which contest political power.
“His Majesty occupied the Zulu throne during a very difficult period in the politics of KwaZulu-Natal, when violent conflict among his subjects resulted in the death of thousands of people.
“His Majesty will be remembered as a champion of peace and stability in the province ,having led many peace initiatives,” Zikalala said.
The Premier said the King has departed at a time when the country is grappling with the devastating impact of COVID-19, and the looming spectre of the feared third wave of the virus leaves the nation bereft of one of its important leaders.
Zikalala praised the role the King played in the revival of cultural ceremonies and rites such as Umkhosi Womhlanga (Reed Dance), which promoted moral regeneration and medical male circumcision, which won him the admiration of the world.
Mourning and funeral preparations
Following the death of His Majesty, the Premier has requested President Cyril Ramaphosa declare a State funeral for the King.
KwaZulu-Natal has declared a week of mourning, meaning all government and private functions are suspended.
Zikalala called for a prayer service on Thursday, 18 March 2021 throughout the province to pray for the Zulu nation following the passing of His Majesty.
Government will appoint an Inter-Ministerial Committee that will work with the Royal House in preparation for all the activities leading to the burial (Ukutshalwa kweSilo).
The Office of the Premier, guided by the Royal Family and the Presidency, is preparing the logistics for the King’s send-off.
The provincial government will give support and ensure adherence to all level 1 regulations and COVID-19 health protocols.
The Provincial Executive Council will visit the Royal Family on Saturday, 13 March, to offer its condolences.
Deputy President David Mabuza, at today’s South African National Aids Council (SANAC) meeting, described King Goodwill Zwelithini as a torchbearer leading the South African nation and the people of KwaZulu-Natal out of the grip of HIV and Aids and TB, which has given meaning to the work of SANAC.
“The passing of King Goodwill Zwelithini makes this day all the more wrought with a twist of pain and a spear to the heart of all South Africans who identify with the ideals of development, justice and equality of opportunity of all genders.”
Mabuza said in the fight against the scourge of HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs, King Goodwill Zwelithini played a pioneering role for the betterment of the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and the entire South Africa.
“He took a brave stance and spoke uncomfortable truths on prevailing socio-economic challenges facing our nation.
“In recognition of the social impact of his work in changing the lives of the people, the University of Zululand conferred him with an honorary doctorate,” Mabuza said.