Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu was the King of the Zulu nation under the Traditional Leadership clause of South Africa's republican constitution.
He was born on 27 July 1948 at Nongoma, Union of South Africa. He was born to King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon and Queen Thomozile Jezangani kaNdwandwe. He became king on the death of his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, in 1968. Prince Israel Mcwayizeni kaSolomon acted as the regent from 1968 to 1971 while the King took refuge in St. Helena for three years to avoid assassination. After his 21st birthday and his first marriage, Zwelithini was installed as the eighth monarch of the Zulus at a traditional ceremony at Nongoma on 3 December 1971, attended by 20,000 people.
In the power vacuum created in the 1990s as Apartheid and the domination of the country by White South Africans was abolished, the King was sometimes unable to avoid being drawn into partisan politics. The Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) initially opposed parts of the new constitution advocated by the African National Congress (ANC) regarding the internal governance of KwaZulu. In particular, the IFP campaigned aggressively for an autonomous and sovereign Zulu king, as constitutional head of state. As a result, the IFP abstained from registering its party for the 1994 election (a necessity in order to receive votes) in opposition. However, once it became obvious that its efforts were not going to stop the election (the IFP's desired goal), the party was registered. It demonstrated its political strength by taking the majority of the provincial votes for KwaZulu-Natal in said election.
The King was chairman of the Ingonyama Trust, a corporate entity established to administer the land traditionally owned by the king for the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the Zulu nation. This land consists of 32% of the area of KwaZulu/Natal.
As the custodian of Zulu traditions and customs, King Zwelithini revived cultural functions such as the Umhlanga, the colourful and symbolic reed dance ceremony which, amongst other things, promotes moral awareness and AIDS education among Zulu women, and the Ukweshwama, the first fruits ceremony, which is a traditional function involving certain traditional rituals including the killing of a bull. The latter ceremony was subject to a lawsuit brought in November 2009 by Animal Rights Africa, alleging that the method of killing the animal was cruel and barbaric. He has also traveled abroad extensively to promote tourism and trade in the West for KwaZulu-Natal, and to fundraise for Zulu-supported charities, often accompanied by one of his queens consort. On such occasions he is frequently officially hosted by local Zulu organizations, and grants audiences to Zulus living abroad.
In June, 1994, the University of Zululand conferred an honorary doctorate in agriculture upon the King. He was Chancellor of the South African branch of the American-based Newport University. In March 1999 Coker College of South Carolina awarded him an honorary doctorate in law. During the first half of 2001 he was inaugurated as Chancellor of the M L Sultan Technikon in KwaZulu-Natal.
The King's authorized biography, King of Goodwill, was published in 2003. The musical dramatization of this work premiered at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg on 16 March 2005.
The King spoke at The Synagogue Church Of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2004 regarding the importance of trade and peace.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was reported to being treated in a hospital ICU ward to deal with his diabetes. In a statement in the morning of Sunday 7 February 2021, IFP MP Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi — who is also an inkhosi of the Buthelezi clan and traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation — said that Zwelithini had “several unstable glucose readings” over the past few weeks, raising the concern of health professionals. He required treatment in a Zululand hospital for this.
“Unfortunately the problem did not fully resolve, and His Majesty has had to return to hospital to stabilise his glucose levels once again. His doctors have felt it necessary to place him in ICU to deal with this thoroughly,” said Buthelezi.
He added that this was being “treated with particular caution” because diabetes was a known comorbidity associated with Coronavirus (Covid-19).
“I therefore wish to assure the nation that His Majesty the King is receiving the necessary care for his diabetes, as he has always done. As always, the minister of health is aware of these arrangements,” he said.
In January, 2012, while speaking at an event commemorating the 133rd anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, the King caused controversy with his statement that same-sex relations were "rotten". His statements were condemned by the South African Human Rights Commission as well as LGBT rights groups. President Jacob Zuma rebuked the king for his comments. The Zulu Royal Household later said that the King's comments had been mistranslated and that he had not condemned same-sex relations, only expressed concern about a state of moral decay in South Africa that has led to widespread sexual abuse, including male-on-male sexual abuse.
In September 2012, King Goodwill Zwelithini asked the KwaZulu-Natal government for R18m to build new property, including a new R6m palace for his youngest wife Queen Mafu and upgrades to Queen MaMchiza's palace. The King's royal household department CFO, Mduduzi Mthembu, told a parliamentary committee that the money was needed. The department also requested USD1.4m for improvements to Queen MaMchiza's palace. The government had already budgeted around USD6.9m for the royal family during 2012, not for the first time prompting accusations of lavish spending; in 2008, opposition parties criticised King Zwelithini's wives for spending around USD24,000 on linen, designer clothes and expensive holidays.
Inflammatory public statements by Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma fuelled the "prevailing atmosphere of fear" during 2015's wave of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa feared fresh xenophobic attacks that started in March 2015 after remarks made by a South African King calling for the deportation of all foreigners living in that country. According to South African media reports, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini called for the deportation of foreigners in South Africa, saying it was unacceptable for South Africans to compete with people from other countries for the few economic opportunities available.
Addressing Pongolo community members during a moral regeneration event in March 2015, Zwelithini accused government of failing to protect locals from the “influx of foreign nationals”.
“When you walk in the street you cannot recognise a shop that you used to know because it has been taken over by foreigners, who then mess it up by hanging amanikiniki (rags),” he said.
“Most government leaders do not want to speak out on this matter because they are scared of losing votes. As the King of the Zulu nation, I cannot tolerate a situation where we are being led by leaders with no views whatsoever.
“We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries. The fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals.
“I know you were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries.”
The Royal Family confirmed that the mortal remains of AmaZulu King Goodwill Zwelithini were to lie in state at Khethomthandayo Royal Palace. The Zulu monarch passed away on Friday 12 March 2021. His wife Queen Mantfombi MaDlamimi Zulu (Mantfombi Dlamini) was made interim ruler of the Zulu nation pending the installation of a new King to succeed the late Zulu King. This was according to sources close to the Zulu Royal family.
- , BBC News, Published: 24 November, 2009, Accessed: 7 February, 2021
- , Sowetan Live, Published: 7 February, 2021, Accessed: 7 February, 2021
- Nivashni Nair, , Times Live, Published: 6 April, 2016, Accessed: 7 February, 2021
- , The Herald, Published: 24 March, 2015, Accessed: 7 February, 2021
- , eNCA, Published: 12 March, 2021, Accessed: 12 March, 2021
- Clive Ndou, , News24, Published: 21 March, 2021, Accessed: 21 March, 2021