King Goodwill Zwelithini memorial: 'He was the king of Africa'

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Zulu Warriors at the funeral service of King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu.
Zulu Warriors at the funeral service of King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu.
Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
  • A large crowd of people gathered at the Zulu royal palace for King Goodwill Zwelithini's memorial service.
  • Several dignitaries, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, were there.
  • The king was buried in a private ceremony on Wednesday.

The weather did not deter people from heading to the KwaKhethomthandayo royal palace to join a crowd of people – including dignitaries and President Cyril Ramaphosa – and pay tribute to King Goodwill Zwelithini.

FOLLOW LIVE | 'A huge tree has fallen'- Ramaphosa honours Zwelithini

Before dawn, warriors could be heard heaving and marching towards the palace for the memorial service.

Zulu warrior Cebo Lenkosi, 29, from Ngolotsha, told News24:

We are here because we are grateful to have had someone like this to guide all of us. He was not just the king of the Zulus. He was the king of Africa.

He was one of hundreds of people who gathered before sunrise to salute the king.

Despite a warning from Premier Sihle Zikalala that the memorial would accommodate a limited number of people due to Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Lenkosi and many others like him still attended.

"There are some risks, but they are doing what they can to keep everyone safe. We cannot just send the king off like that. We have to be here for him like he was for us."

Zamanyabose Mthethwa from Eshowe said respect for the Zulu nation and Zwelithini was paramount for her.

"This is my life and means everything to me. The king was a brave man who did so much for our country. He showed everyone what the Zulu kingdom really is. He took us all over the world."

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CEO of Icebolethu Funerals, Nomfundo Mcoyi, who coordinated the funeral for Zwelithini on Wednesday, said she was heartbroken about his death.

"It's been a long journey with new experiences. I am grateful for being a Zulu girl to bury my Zulu king. For the Zulu family to trust us to bury the king, it is such an honour."

NENGOMA, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 18: Zulu Maidens wit
Zulu Maidens with candle at the funeral service of King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu.
NENGOMA, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 18: Lebani Sirenje a
Lebani Sirenje aka Rasta with portraits of the king at the funeral service of King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu.

However, she said the work she did for the funeral was somewhat challenging.

"When it comes to anything with government, there has to be challenges. There are delays and approvals. There is quite a big team you work with in government. I had a bigger team for this from my side as well. We managed to put together a very successful burial for the king."

Popular artist, Lebani Sirenje, aka Rasta, painted two portraits in honour of Zwelithini.

"Since the king passed on, I started painting this on Saturday and finished the paintings on Thursday (today)... People comment on the big people that have passed on after I paint them."

"One painting will go to the family and one probably for an exhibition. I have not decided which one will go to the family."

Bantu Holomisa, a close friend of Zwelithini, also arrived at the memorial service and recalled a time when he protected the king's family during violence in the 90s.

"It is a pity we are here because of this tragedy. I have been to a number of his houses here since 1989 where we developed a special kind of relationship.

"He would task me to do a job, one of the major ones was to look after his brothers and cousins in the 90s when violence escalated. He requested we must look after his people and we did look after them for six months to a year."

He said Zwelithini was a straight talker.

"The king was a very open person, a no-nonsense taker and a person making sure his people were progressing well. That was him."

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