Avatar photo

By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


King Zwelithini’s funeral forced to be low-key due to pandemic

Medical experts were quick to advise mourners to adhere to coronavirus protocols to avoid the spread of the virus.


Given the Covid-19 devastation in South Africa, the body of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini will not lie in state for public viewing. Since last Friday’s death of the 72 year old, the longest-serving Zulu monarch, the king’s Khethomthandayo home in kwaNongoma, has seen an influx of people arriving to pay their last respects. Medical experts were quick to advise mourners to adhere to coronavirus protocols to avoid the spread of the virus, which has already infected over a million people. Tygerberg hospital infectious disease specialist and University of Stellenbosch academic Dr Jantjie Taljaard warned: “If Covid-19 protocols are strictly…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

Given the Covid-19 devastation in South Africa, the body of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini will not lie in state for public viewing.

Since last Friday’s death of the 72 year old, the longest-serving Zulu monarch, the king’s Khethomthandayo home in kwaNongoma, has seen an influx of people arriving to pay their last respects.

Medical experts were quick to advise mourners to adhere to coronavirus protocols to avoid the spread of the virus, which has already infected over a million people.

Tygerberg hospital infectious disease specialist and University of Stellenbosch academic Dr Jantjie Taljaard warned: “If Covid-19 protocols are strictly adhered to, it will be safe for the mourners. But with the huge numbers expected and human nature being what it is, I think there will be an opportunity for an increased Covid-19 spread.”

SA Medical Research Council president, professor Glenda Gray said people must be careful and adhere to protocols.

Despite it being a traditional practice for a Zulu’s king’s body to lie in state, University of KwaZulu-Natal political scientist Lukhona Mnguni said: “The body of the king won’t lie in state, because the Covid-19 link has been established and appreciated.

“What may happen is that on Wednesday – ahead of the burial – they would probably take the body to a number palaces of the king, for all the necessary rituals to be done, because he stayed in all these places.

“Thereafter, the body might be put in a holding room at the place where he is to be buried.

“But only two to five people may be allowed inside that room.

“For the body to lie in state is not something desirable for anyone.”

In what is expected to be a balancing act between state and tradition, the funeral is set to be observed as a low-key event, compared to the burial in 1968 of Zwelithini’s father.

Said Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi: “As the nation we recall – when the late king’s father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, passed away in September 1968 – he was laid in state for several days while thousands of mourners came to pay their final respects.

“It was naturally expected that His Majesty King Zwelithini would likewise be laid in state.

“Following the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, some very difficult decisions needed to be made by the Zulu royal family.

“Unfortunately, we are faced with the reality that South Africa and the world remain within the grip of a deadly pandemic.

“The national regulations which are in place, restricting the number of people who may gather, cannot be contravened, even in a time of extraordinary distress.

“It would be unconscionable to allow His Majesty’s passing to become the cause of further deaths among his people.

“It has therefore been necessary to take the difficult decision for the late king not to be laid in state.

“I therefore make an appeal, on behalf of the family, for mourners not to travel to KwaNongoma to pay their respects.

“It is vital that we avoid crowds gathering at this time, as this would place lives in jeopardy.

“The royal house itself has numbers in excess of what would be allowed in terms of regulations,” Buthelezi said.

“It is therefore essential to impress upon people that the funeral will not be open for all to attend.

“As a special official funeral, it will be broadcast live so that the nation might honour his majesty from their homes.”

– brians@citizen.co.za

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

Coronavirus (Covid-19 pandemic

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits