King Zwelithini was last month admitted to hospital due to “unstable glucose levels.”, the family said. He was known to have been a diabetic. He is survived by six wives and 28 children.
Among them is Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who revealed in a statement, “It is with utmost grief that I inform the nation of the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini Kabhekuzulu, King of the Zulu nation. Tragically, while still in [the] hospital, His Majesty’s health took a turn for the worse and he subsequently passed on in the early hours of this morning…. On behalf of the Royal Family, we thank the nation for your continued prayers and support in this most difficult time.”
King Zwelithini who was crowned as the eighth monarch of the Zulu Nation in December 1971 is the longest-serving monarch of the Zulu Kingdom. He was appointed to the throne just at the age of 20 following the death of his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon in 1968.
King Zwelithini was not immediately appointed as king until three years later. Between 1968 to 1971, the monarch feared that the young king, at only 20 years, would be assassinated if immediately crowned. King Zwelithini was thus taken to St Helena for three years while Prince Israel Mcwayizeni kaSolomon acted as the regent from 1968 to 1971.
King Zwelithini was one of the most eminent monarchs on the continent and perhaps globally. He led the 11 million-strong Zulu Nation which amounts to about 18% of South Africa’s population. Despite being the king of the strong Zulu Nation, the King also has family links to the Swazi and Xhosa Nations through marriage and is highly respected by other cultural groups in South Africa.
It is not yet made known if the King had appointed a successor among his many children. However, his eldest son, Prince Misuzulu Zulu who is married to Mantfombi Dlamini, the daughter of King Sobhuza II of Swaziland is most likely to succeed him.
The Role of The Zulu King in South Africa
The 1996 Republican Constitution in South Africa established Traditional Leadership. The clause sought among other things to recognize the authority of the African indigenous political organization.
Chapter 12 of the Constitution gives recognition to the institution, status, and role of traditional leadership. Traditional leadership deals with matters relating to traditional leadership, the role of traditional leaders, customary law, and the customs of communities observing a system of customary law in South Africa.
Although the constitution makes the role of the King largely ceremonial, and it is incumbent upon him to act on the official advice of the provincial premier, the king was highly influential with the political spheres in South Africa.