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WATCH | King Goodwill Zwelithini was ‘the staunchest defender of his people’ – Ramaphosa


  • President Cyril Ramaphosa praised the work of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini.
  • He said Zwelithini advanced the interests of Zulu people.
  • He described the death of the king as “a huge tree that has fallen”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded the work done by the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, saying he “advanced” the ways of Zulu people.

“He will be remembered for being the staunchest defender of his people. He not only defended and advanced the interest of the Zulu people, but advanced their cultures, customs, their traditions and a deep sense of identity and nationhood,” he said.

Ramaphosa was speaking at the Kwakhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma during the memorial service for Zwelithini, who died last week due to Covid-19 related complications.

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“Today is a difficult day. We are bidding farewell to our leader – it is a difficult day because a huge tree has fallen,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the “entire nation is indeed in mourning”.

“It was with the heaviest of hearts that we received the news last week that our beloved leader and king, after a courageous struggle, succumbed to the deadly disease that has taken the lives of so many people.”

He said the passing of Zwelithini was a huge blow to SA leadership.

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“The passing of his majesty means we have lost a revered leader, who had the distinction of leading the Zulu people for half a century. The significance of his long reign and legacy is not lost on us.”

Ramaphosa reflected on the instability of the Zulu kingdom, and Zwelithini’s role in bringing peace.

“History will recall that, after many years of conflict and turmoil, it was in the course of his majesty’s reign that the Zulu kingdom achieved stability and harmony that had so long eluded it.”

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He said it was during Zwelithini’s reign that SA broke many barriers.

“It was during the course of his reign that his people, alongside all the people of our country, realised their dream of freedom from the injustices of colonialism and apartheid.

“And it was during his reign that the decades of dispossession and the wilful destruction of our knowledge and economic systems, our culture and governance institutions, came to an end.”

Ramaphosa said he was heartbroken when he heard of Zwelithini’s passing.

“Sadness descended upon me. The passing has been met with grief and sorrow throughout our land. On behalf of the people of SA, I express my deepest condolences to the royal family and the Zulu nation on this profound loss.”

He said Zwelithini was well recognised internationally.

“Many leaders and people of other countries across the African continent and other parts of the world have expressed their sorrow since hearing of his majesty’s passing.”

‘The battle has never stopped’

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi described Zwelithini as a “repository of the full history of our people”.

“All our traditions, culture, indigenous knowledge, systems of governance and social structures are expressed through our monarch. He carried this burden with dignity. We were blessed by his strength and boldness, for he spoke without fear or favour, leading according to his conscience.”

He said Zwelithini was a man of action, who led by example.

“What he spoke, he also did. When he told us to till our lands and plant our fields, he led by example. He told us to produce food, so that our families would be fed and our communities survive. This showed great foresight, in the gathering storm of economic crisis.”

He said Zwelithini provided for his people.

“Throughout our kingdom, his majesty’s people have an extraordinary element of security, for every family is able to access enough land to live on and produce food. Under his reign, the communal land of the Zulu Kingdom has fed and nurtured us.”

Buthelezi said the king continued the tradition, even when it came under attack.

“I remember his words on 4 July 2018. As a true leader and a father-king, he warned those who would oppose our nation, saying, ‘Face me directly, and leave the Zulu people alone’.”

He said Zwelithini was also a big proponent of social cohesion.

“His commitment to his people and kingdom is beyond question – so, too, his commitment to freedom and social justice. He championed education and was an extraordinary philanthropist. He built bonds across cultures, embracing anyone who shared his vision and goals. There is mourning today among Indians, Jews and Afrikaners; indeed within every community.”

Buthelezi added that Zwelithini’s reign was one of peace.

“His reign saw no wars. No warriors were sent into battle. Yet he reigned through one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history. He was always a king at war, and we, his warriors, were always in battle.

“Whether we were fighting against poverty, ignorance or disease; whether we were fighting for social justice, for the role of traditional leaders, or for the survival of morality; the battle has never stopped.”

Zwelithini died last week after spending nearly a month in hospital to treat his diabetes condition.

He was the longest serving Zulu monarch, ruling for nearly half a century.


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