King Goodwill Zwelithini plays for high stakes

2014-07-07 14:51

Thursday. The Croc and I are hanging in Ulundi. Ulundi’s a weird place. I should know. I lived there for a year back when the Grumpy Prince was running the place.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn. Its claim to fame was being the Smallest Holiday Inn in the World. And the only hotel in town.

It had a donkey, several peacocks and a massive cyclone fence which I had to scale every night as I crawled home from drowning myself in gin in the township – the ganja was so bad – because the security guard went to sleep at 10pm.

I worked in Ulundi for The Mercury. My job title was African Affairs Correspondent. I did have several affairs which, because of the laws enacted by the Grumpy Prince’s paymasters in Pretoria, would have landed me in jail but my job was actually to write about the Prince.

Which I did. Every day. For a year. Until I pissed off some of the Prince’s heavies and had to do a Good Shepherd and get the flock out of there.

Those days the Prince was the big lahnee of KwaZulu. The Prince was chief minister, minister of police, and, on occasion, minister of a couple of other things as well.

The Prince was a busy cat those days. Apart from being minister of everything, he was also president of the SA Black Alliance, Prince of KwaPhindangene, traditional prime minister to his nephew, King Goodwill Zwelithini.

When he wasn’t caught up with that, the Prince was also president of Inkatha and was earning lots of badges from the Boy Scout movement. The Prince also spent a fair amount of time naming things after himself.

Particularly in Ulundi, which those days used to be the capital of KwaZulu, the non-Bantustan Bantustan. There wasn’t much to it: three townships, legislature, administrative building. Lots of cattle in the streets. No robots ...

Back to Thursday. We’re not in Ulundi to write about the Prince. The Prince is no longer the minister of everything. The voters have seen to that. We’re here to write about the Prince’s nephew.

King Goodwill Zwelithini has a sweet gig. Think about it – a large pay cheque, several mansions, staff, wheels, air tickets to attend the odd opening.

His Majesty’s naar, though. His Majesty wants his land back. Well his great grandad’s land. His Majesty’s called the province’s House of Traditional Leaders together to make one big claim.

For the whole Zulu Kingdom a la 1868. And a bit of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State as well. Not bad at all.

The amakhosi are keen. So is the KwaZulu-Natal government, who are picking up the tab for the meeting. There’s tents all over the massive legislature precinct. Hundreds of government vehicles. The tab from today could settle a claim or two, I reckon.

It’s the first time the legislature’s been used in years. We’re in the public gallery. It’s like being in a Catholic church. Every time His Majesty speaks, were out of our seats. Somebody else bayedes and we’re up again. By the time the programme’s over I feel like I’ve been at the amyl nitrate.

The session’s winding up. His Majesty’s ready to go. Out of nowhere, the Prince starts singing. It’s hard-core old school traditional.

His Majesty freezes. The amakhosi join in. Nobody moves, except to accentuate their delivery. The song ends. His Majesty gets ready to go. The Prince starts another number, harder and slower than the first.

His Majesty freezes. Again. So do the amakhosi. The Prince dirges deep. The Prince is in control. This is his thing. They’ll stop when he lets them.

Never mind the voters. This is his show.

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