Zulu king’s Heritage Day comments raises questions about the role of the monarchy

2014 National Day Of Reconciliation Celebrations

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini came under fire from Young Communist League deputy secretary, Isaac Luthuli this week after making demands concerning the maintenance of his palaces and asking for extra privileges like the establishment of a royal defence force, the power to appoint and dismiss traditional leaders and a 17-gun salute, at a Heritage Day event. The king’s household already receives a R56-million annual budget. Luthuli, who referred to Zwelithini as “one fellow”, argued that the king was “over-exaggerating his role in the political space” and should go into politics if he wanted more power. LIZEKA MADUNA asked Durbanites what they thought.

philani (1)Philani Sangweni, 23, student, Durban
The role of the king is to unite the native people of South Africa and to keep the Zulu culture going. I’ve also read from media outlets that he is the key to fight HIV/AIDS through the reed dance. When mentioning figures, the money sounds too much for each person but the role and the impact in Zulu culture has been tremendous so there’s nothing wrong with that. Luthuli’s comments are distorted because other countries as well have politics and monarchs, why should he get into politics to earn power? And there is still place for traditional leaders because it’s the matter of culture, values and morals. We have lived in a democracy and it doesn’t get us anywhere.

slondileSilondile Cele, 19, student, Adams
I grew up in a township where there are no traditional leaders and I still don’t understand what the role of the king is. However his role can’t be worth millions of [rands], taking into consideration the rate of destitute people in the country who could benefit from that money. As for the additional demands he made, they are quite unreasonable because he is not the president. He doesn’t need all the things he mentioned, all he needs is to lead by example and serve his people. Nowadays we have the constitution and law hence there is no need for traditional leaders. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t much that could be done, chances are he will get everything he mentioned on the list.

sandileSandile Lukhozi, 20, student, Bothas Hill
The role of the Zulu king is to rule and serve the Zulu tribe, apart from that I can’t think of any possible role he plays in this country. He deserves to be paid for his job like any other people who serve communities but the budget for his household is questionable. There is no way someone whose job is to serve his people could have such perks as a budget worth millions. His wish-list may sound impossible but this is South Africa and chances are, he will be getting all that’s on the list. As for the Young Communist League’s comment, it was uncalled for. We might have different views about the king and his role as the monarch but he still deserves respect, especially from Zulu people.

nosiphoNosipho Ntombela, 24, student, Durban
In this day and age, I don’t know what the role of the King is, perhaps that’s because I grew up in an environment that had no traditional leader. He might have a specific role but there is no way it could be worth millions. The demands he made might have been uncalled for but certainly there is a reason behind that. One cannot make such demands knowing they are impossible, there is a possibility that he made them knowing he will actually get them. As for Luthuli, he is in no position to make such comments with regards to the king because he probably doesn’t even know half of the king’s duties. Politicians should stop the political tendencies of bringing politics into everything.

mkhizaBaba Mkhize, 57, welder, Mayville
The role of King Zwelithini is to look into the needs of his people and serve them. He is there to bring peace and harmony within the country. The budget in his name should include the money he has to use to assist deprived communities, not just his household. As far as I know he is protected, I don’t understand what all these other demands are for. He shouldn’t focus on himself but his people because that’s what his role should be about. Luthuli should know that there is a reason we have a king and should bow down to him, he is no position to make such comments. It goes to prove that these young politicians have lost the real essence of politics. With people like Luthuli, traditional leaders are needed to put people on the right path.

- Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity
– Featured image via GovernmentZA on Flickr