King Goodwill Zwelithini, monarch of the Zulu community of South Africa (the largest ethnic group in the country) and an influential traditional leader in the southern nation, died this Friday at the age of 72 as a result of diabetes, according to sources from The Royal Family.
“It is with the greatest sorrow that I inform the nation of the death of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, King of the Zulu nation,” Zulu politician and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who served as prime minister for the deceased, said in a statement. monarch.
Zwelithini had been admitted for several weeks to a hospital in the South African region of KwaZulu-Natal (east) for his worrying glucose levels.
“Still in the hospital, Her Majesty’s health took a turn for the worse and consequently he died during the early hours of this morning,” Buthelezi explained.
A ‘much loved’ monarch
After hearing the news, the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, sent a message of condolences in which he stressed that Zwelithini was a “much loved” monarch.
The South African president also stated that the late Zulu king will be remembered as a “visionary” for his extensive contribution to the identity and unity of the Zulu people and to the economic development of the KwaZulu-Natal region (home to most of the Zulu members). of this ethnic group) and the country.
Zwelithini was king since 1971
Born in 1948 in the town of Nongoma, Zwelithini was king of the Zulu people since his coronation in 1971, a time when the racist “apartheid” regime – which kept the black majority oppressed and without rights under the rule of South Africa’s white minority – was still crossing its equator.
The Zulus, who number between 10 and 12 million people, make up the most populous ethnic group in South Africa, with a population of just over 58 million.
Traditional leaders have an influential social and political position
The democratic Constitution of 1996 recognizes the role of traditional leaders and, although it grants them a ceremonial and non-executive role, figures such as Zwelithini maintain an influential social and political position.
In recent years, his role had been relevant in debates such as the reform of land ownership – Zwelithini controlled some 2.8 million hectares in the east of the country through a trust and his interests were opposed to the plans of the Government to reach more equitable distributions- or in the recurring waves of xenophobic violence that South Africa experienced in recent years.