Although it has been announced that King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu will be sent off to be planted back to mother earth on Wednesday night – sacred royal traditions suggest His Majesty may long be one with the soil by the time the public ceremony is observed.
According to cultural dictates and as a sign of respect to the King, details around his actual funeral and exact place of final rest are kept a secret to the public and are known only to a few royal insiders.
In Zulu culture, when the monarch passes on to the land of the ancestors, the nation is expected to stop everything and mourn with the royal family for a period of time. This is a sign of showing respect and sympathy with the royal family.
The rituals which date back to the beginning of time included ceasing of all ploughing activities. The Zulu nation is expected to observe a period of mourning His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu.
In line with tradition, KwaZulu Natal premier Sihle Zikalala recently announced that all government and private functions will be suspended for seven days to show support to the grieving royal family.
Professor Sihawu Ngubane, a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu Natal recently told a media briefing that it is widely known that the resting place of a king should be kept a secret.
“The funeral of a king is a secret only known by the family and close relatives. When the king passes on, the royal family does everything and plant the king, and the nation will be informed later. It is a very common thing to handle the passing on of a king this way,” he said.
King Zwelithini who has ruled his nation from 1971 took his final bow in hospital on Friday morning, aged 72.
On Tuesday government announced that the King’s send off will be a private royal family service and that the official memorial service will take place at the KwaKhethaomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma on Thursday, 18 March 2021 starting at 10:00am.
The memorial service will be broadcast live on the SABC and other major broadcast channels. It also announced that iSilo would be afforded a Special Official Funeral Category 1 is accorded with military honours.
Although the royal family have announced iSilo will be planted on Wednesday night in a service attended by men only, it is widely believed a king is interred as soon as he has taken his final bow and traditional and spiritual rites are conducted.
This could mean by the time the nation and the world observe the ‘funeral service’, His Majesty may long have been planted back into the soil of his forefathers.
The public funeral service is usually only ceremonial and takes place long after the actual ukutshalwa kwe nkosi. A state funeral planned for Thursday will now only serve as a memorial service.
The king was admitted to hospital last month following complications with diabetes and his health worsened apparently due to covid-19 complications.
It is said in Zulu culture that inkosi iyatshalwa, that His Majesty, unlike a commoner is not buried but is being returned back to the ancestral soil to be planted, unlike the normal uyangcwatshwa commonly used in normal speak.
However one of the issues that got traditionalists worried was the fact that the passing of the monarch has been announced immediately, which was totally against Zulu tradition.
When the Zulu king has passed on the news is supposed to be kept secret and the announcement will be made after he is laid to rest.
When King Zwelithini’s predecessor, his father Cyprian Bhekuzulu ka Solomon took his final bow in 1968 all social events were suspended during the grieving period.
Since news of his bowing out was announced on Friday, mourners including international dignitaries visited the royal palace to pay their last respects to the leader who has been described as a humble and intelligent man.
Government has ordered that the national flag be flown at half-mast until after the ceremony to plant the king’s mortal remains has passed. The royal family has expressed gratitude for messages of support.
“The sad passing away of His Majesty has left gaping wounds in our hearts. Despite the deep hurt and anguish, we remain comforted by messages of condolences from different structures of society. Importantly, we have received messages of sympathy from Kings in various parts of the country and the continent.”