Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu, South Africa’s Zulu regent who took over the reins of power following the death of her husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini has died at 65.
A statement issued by Prince Mangosutho Buthelezi, founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party and traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu monarch announced “…with deepest shock and distress the unexpected passing of her Majesty Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu, regent of the Zulu nation.”
Some South African media outfits had earlier reported her ailing health without details of her medical condition.
Accounting for around a fifth of the country’s population, the Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group. Most live in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal. The monarch has no formal government powers but upholds Zulu tradition and controls millions of hectares of land through a trust.
“This has taken us by surprise and left us utterly bereft. On behalf of the royal family, I wish to assure the nation that while we are all rightly grief-stricken, there will be no leadership vacuum in the Zulu nation,” Buthelezi said.
In a statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa extended his “thoughts, prayers and hearts once more to the royal family”.
The Queen married Zwelithini in 1977, becoming his third wife. She is the sister of King Mswati III of eSwatini, ruler of the country formerly known as Swaziland. King Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, who was 72, died in hospital last month from diabetes complications.
Under his will, his wife was appointed regent pending the installation of a successor.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said the Queen was a bridge between the Zulu and eSwatini nations. He referred to her leadership role as an inspiration for women, which helped to “administer the final burial rites to the backward, patriarchal and chauvinistic tendencies that considered women as inferior beings”.
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