King Goodwill Zwelithini who turns 67 this weekend, is the only Zulu King to have reigned for so long. Born on 14 July 1948, King Goodwill ascended to the throne in 1971, after the demise of his father King Cyprian BhekuZulu kaSolomon.
His majesty has been hailed for reviving important Zulu cultural heritage practices such as the reed dance which takes place annually at his eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma, in northern KwaZulu-Natal and the Umkhosi wokweshwama “Tasting of the first Fruits”.
Enyokeni will be a hive of activity this weekend, as King Goodwill Zwelithini simultaneously celebrates his 67th birthday and 40 years of reign. He was installed as the 8th Zulu monarch at just 21 years of age after marrying Queen Mantombi Dlamini of Swaziland.
The Zulu cultural practices have proven effective in promoting Zulu culture, combating the degeneration of moral standards among youths, adding a cultural spin to the war against pre-marital sex and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Fingers were pointed at the monarch this year as the instigator of the recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals
In June 1994 King Zwelithini was conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Zululand, in recognition of his campaign for improved subsistence farming in rural communities. He was also inaugurated as Chancellor of the then ML Sultan Technikon, now part of the Durban University of Technology.
The King is also on a mission to turn the Isandlwana Battle Fields into a “state of the art” tourist attraction venue, with various in-house businesses, thereby boosting the local economy and creating much needed jobs.
Fingers were pointed at the monarch this year as the instigator of the recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, something which the Zulu Royal house and KwaZulu-Natal provincial government described as a gross misrepresentation of the King’s speech.
However, the matter is still being investigated by the Human Rights Commission. Spokesperson for the Zulu Royal family Prince Thulani says it is all systems go for the King’s birthday celebrations on Saturday.
“The King is not only the custodian of our custom and culture, but a symbol of unity in the province. We invite everybody to be present; people from provincial and national parliament, the Premier of KZN will also be present. We also expect musical artists, both Maskandi and Gospel because the programme will start during the day at 13h00.”
Local dignitaries and those from abroad will join the thousands of people to grace the King’s birthday. The King is presently married to six wives and has 27 children