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South Africa’s Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini dies aged 72

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King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu nation in South Africa has died in the hospital where he was being treated for diabetes-related issues, his palace announced.

The king wielded great influence among millions of Zulus through his largely ceremonial and spiritual role despite having no official power in modern South Africa.

“It is with the utmost grief that I inform the nation of the passing of his majesty king Goodwill Zwelithini, king of the Zulu nation,” the palace said in a statement signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a powerful veteran politician who is also a Zulu prince.

He had been admitted to a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal last week to monitor his ongoing diabetes condition.

“Tragically, while still in the hospital, his majesty’s health took a turn for the worse and he subsequently passed away in the early hours of this morning,” the statement said.

The king’s prime minister thanked South Africa for its ‘continued prayers and support in this most difficult time’.

Born in Nongoma, a small town in the south-eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province, Zwelithini ascended the throne in 1971 during the apartheid era at the age of 23, three years after the death of his father.

King Zwelithini was the longest-serving Zulu monarch in history, reigning for more than five decades. His role was largely spiritual, although he occasionally stepped into politics.

 

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