King Zwelithini, 72, passed away early Friday after being hospitalized for an ailment for several weeks, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a condolence message on social media.
“His Majesty will be remembered as a much-loved, visionary monarch who made an important contribution to cultural identity, national unity and economic development in KwaZulu-Natal and through this, to the development of our country as a whole,” Ramaphosa wrote on Twitter Friday morning.
One social media user, Nemzah Mageba, swiftly beckoned the president to temporarily relax South Africa’s coronavirus restrictions that prohibit mass gatherings at funerals, so the departed king can be accorded a public ceremony befitting of his status.
“Dear honorable president, I humbly request that you suspend level one alert for Covid, we need to bury our king the way he deserves! He deserves much better than 50 people…,” Mageba wrote on Twitter.
“We can social distance and not shake hands… We wanna sing…. Deep inside I really wanna be there with thousands of Zulu people,” Mageba added.
Lwazi Monyetsane, 33, a Zulu whose family resides in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, told CNN that the late monarch deserves a state funeral.
Monyetsane, however, fears that Covid-19 safety protocols may be disregarded by admirers of the departed Zulu king.
“I know for a fact that KwaZulu people will not bother with Covid protocols. The death of a king is a big deal and everyone will want to be part of it or at least attend,” she said.
“Government will have to be very intentional about how they go forward with the planning of the funeral. KwaZulu people love King Zwelithini. I will be watching with a keen eye on how we handle it,” Monyetsane added.
Mvangeli Nzuza, 31, of KwaZulu-Natal, also told CNN that King Zwelithini should be given a state funeral — but said it should be done virtually to ensure compliance with South Africa’s Covid regulations.
“The entire world should stream the funeral,” Nzuza said, adding that “there shouldn’t be a set of rules for normal South Africans and another for high profile individuals.”
King Zwelithini acceded to the throne more than 50 years ago following the passing of his father. He ranks as the longest-serving Zulu monarch.
The Zulu Kingdom, under Zwelithini’s forbears, resisted an invasion of the territory by British soldiers in the 1800s.
King Zwelithini was an influential leader throughout his reign. In 2010, he promoted a return to the tradition of male circumcision in order to combat high rates of HIV in KwaZulu-Natal, after studies indicated it significantly reduced transmission.
“He was powerful,” Kwena Moabelo, a 46-year-old resident of Johannesburg, told CNN. “He was more progressive than his predecessors.”
South Africans are calling for a state funeral be held in honor of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, the revered monarch of the country’s largest ethnic group, whose death was announced Friday.