Former President Jacob Zuma on Sunday described the late Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu, as a fountain of wisdom from which several KwaZulu-Natal leaders learnt their leadership skills.
Addressing members of the Zulu royal family at the Khethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, Zuma said the King's passing left a void in the Zulu nation.
"The big tree has fallen. The tree which for several decades provided a shelter to members of the Zulu nation is no more.
"The King who taught us the value of respect, love and unity is no more. No words can describe the loss and pain inflicted on Zulu nation as a result of the King's passing," he said.
The King, who passed away on Friday in Durban's Chief Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, after spending more than a month in the hospital's ICU ward, died due to Covid-19 and complications arising from his diabetes condition.
Zuma, who led an ANC delegation during its visit to the palace, said the King had a good working relationship with all spheres of government in the province.
"He also had great respect for all political leaders and avoided taking sides.
"We all hope that the good relations between the royal family and the government will continue," he said.
On Friday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the King will receive a special state funeral. However, the Zulu nation Prime Minister, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said the royal family has resolved that the funeral would be a private one. The Zulu royal family, which held a meeting on Saturday evening resolved that the King's funeral, which will be held at night at a date yet to be decided, would be attended by close family members.
The state, Buthelezi said, will only play a role during Zwelithini's memorial service, which will take place on Thursday.
"Most senior members of the royal family, including the queens and princes were present at the meeting.
"It was the King's wish that his funeral be conducted in that manner," Buthelezi said.
Several high profile figures have been flocking to the palace since Sunday morning to pay their last respects to the King.The ANC delegation which visited the palace included the party's treasurer general, Paul Mashatile, KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala and ANC national executive committee member, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Other political leaders who visited the palace on Sunday included IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa and DA KZN leader, Zwakele Mncwango.
According to the royal family traditions only male members of the family can attend the burial of the King.The Zulu royal family is scheduled to hold a press briefing on Sunday afternoon.