AmaXhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu has died at the age of 51 after a long illness.
According to a close family member the king died on Thursday morning at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha. Details of his death were still unknown on Thursday morning, but the king was apparently unwell for a while.
Sigcawu made history by becoming the first king to be crowned in post democratic South Africa.
During his coronation at his Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale, Eastern Cape in May 2015 former president Jacob Zuma said Sigcawu’s recognition as the king of AmaXhosa was a culmination of a painful exercise – the Nhlapo Commission was set up to investigate the authenticity of traditional leadership and correct the wrongs of the past.
The commission had been set up to investigate the legitimacy of monarchs around the country.
King Sigcawu was confirmed by the Nhlapo Commission in 2010 as the overall king of AmaXhosa – a nation previously divided between the AmaRharhabe and AmaGcaleka clans.
Zuma delivered the keynote address on the historic day of his coronation, and Sigcawu asked him to intervene in the plight of poverty of his people.
“Mr President, my people are poor and hungry; they have no jobs, no security, no proper education. They are unemployed and depend on social grants,” he said.
He called on the president to visit again to discuss how to assist the people of Nqadu, and Zuma made numerous visits to the Great Place.
The king rules over 40 traditional councils with 34 chiefs and 167 headmen. His land extends over several towns including Dutywa, Butterworth, Willowvale and Centane.
Sigcawu was a descendant of King Hintsa, who was known for his bravery and was killed by British soldiers in 1835.
Sigcawu was vocal about the arrest of his friend, AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, who is serving a 12-year jail term at the East London maximum prison for arson, kidnapping, assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm, and defeating the ends of justice.
The outspoken Sigcawu was also passionate about youth development under his kingdom and organised sports tournaments and festivals to ensure that young people were kept busy and away from drugs.