On the eve of her funeral, mourners dressed in traditional leopard skin regalia gathered outside a Johannesburg morgue to accompany the body of the late Zulu regent queen.
The late queen, Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu, aged 65, died on April 30, only weeks after being appointed interim successor to her late husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini, the country’s longest-serving monarch.
The news which appalled make had brought a wind of sorrow to the Zulu community. The people were saddened that their wounds had not healed from losing their late King, and no sooner had his wife succumbed.
“Our wounds from the death of the king had not healed, and now the queen has followed,” said mourner Jabu Mangena, who was dressed in black and wore a broad-brimmed red hat. She further told AFP that they will remember the deceased queen as a proud woman of her culture and heritage.
Hundreds of mourners marched through Hillbrow, an inner-city suburb, singing and dancing their way to the mortuary under a bright autumn sky the day before her funeral. Traditional leopard skin ponchos and headbands were worn by men known as “amaButho,” or Zulu regiments, who wielded clubs and shields made of animal hide.
Meanwhile, young women were dressed in bright miniskirts and beads, while their married partners wore patterned shawls and head wraps.
On Thursday, mourners will escort the queen’s body to KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in Nongoma, which is 480 kilometers southeast of Johannesburg, where she will be laid to rest.
Also, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the prince and prime minister of the Zulu community, stated that her late majesty would be interred at the crack of dawn in a private burial ceremony, as was done to the late king. The ceremony will proceed in honor of the queen’s wishes.
A day after the burial, a memorial service will be held, with flags flying half-mast throughout Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
The Journey of The Late Queen
After a struggle with the diabetes-related disease, Zwelithini died on March 12th, aged 72, after half a century on the throne. He left six wives, 28 children, and a tumultuous succession battle in his wake.
Zwelithini had named Dlamini-Zuma, his third wife and the sister of Eswatini’s King Mswati III, to act as his temporary successor before a successor was selected in his will. Her death in the hospital came as a shock, sparking accusations of poisoning from other royal family members, which they have refused.
Queen Sibongile Dlamini, Zwelithini’s first wife, went to challenge the king’s will and claim recognition as his only legitimate spouse in a dramatic turn of events. The sudden demise of the late queen has triggered a bitter family feud and a power struggle.
The charismatic Zwelithini had moral authority over more than 11 million Zulus, nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population, even though the title of Zulu king does not confer executive power. Not much is out regarding the next successor as the Zulu community is still working on laying her majesty to rest.