Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, 72, passed away in the early hours of Friday morning following his admission to hospital in February to deal with his diabetes.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and nation, made the announcement through a statement saying the king’s health had taken a turn for the worse.
“It is with utmost grief that I inform the nation of the passing of his Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, King of the Zulu nation,” Buthelezi said.
“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.”
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King Zwelithini, the eighth monarch of the Zulu Kingdom, was initially admitted to hospital due to “several unstable glucose readings” that had raised concern with his doctors, Buthelezi said in a statement on 7 February.
Here is a brief history of the life of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, according to SA History Online:
Born in 1948
King Zwelithini was born on 14 July 1948 at Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal. He was the eldest son of King Cyprian Bhekuzulu and his second wife, Queen Thomo.
The king was educated at the Bhekuzulu College of Chiefs and then he was privately tutored. He lived at his father’s official residence at Khethomthandayo and received formal instruction in traditional Zulu customs.
King Cyprian’s passing
Zwelithini’s father, King Cyprian, died in 1968 and a regent was appointed to look after the administration of the Royal affairs while Zwelithini completed his education. He was a 20-year-old student at the time.
Zwelithini installed as Zulu king
King Zwelithini was installed as the eighth Monarch of the Zulu nation on 3 December 1971 at a traditional ceremony in Nongoma that was attended by 20 000 people. Before his appointment to the throne, Zwelithini had to go into hiding outside the kingdom following a plot to have him killed.
Status as king comes into question
During the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) in the early 1990s, Zwelithini’s status as king became a point of bitter contention between Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (then leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party) and the Codesa delegates. In an about-face, Buthelezi refused to attend Codesa two in May 1992 in protest of the lack of clarity on the future of the king’s position.
Mandela gives king assurances
In July 1992, South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela assured King Zwelithini that his status was assured under a new government. This created wider expectations of a dispensation inclusive of various ethnic monarchs in the country.
King Zwelithini was also appointed the chair of the Ingonyama Trust established in 1994, which holds all the land that was previously owned or belonged to the erstwhile KwaZulu government.
The king has a number of palaces in Nongoma, the Royal City of Zululand. He has six wives and 28 children.
Every September a festival called the Royal Reed Dance (or Umkhosi woMhlanga) takes place in Nongoma and it attracts thousands of people.