Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who suffered from diabetes, succumbed to Covid-19-related complications in hospital, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said during a radio interview on Friday.
In an interview on the SABC radio station Ukhozi FM, Buthelezi said the king died from complications related to the virus.
“I want to emphasise to the Zulu nation that although we are broken, we must not forget that the king died during such a difficult time, during Covid-19.
“And when he was admitted to hospital he was taken by this death, even Queen MaNdlovu was taken,” said Buthelezi, who is the traditional prime minister of the monarchy.
Zwelithini, 72, had been hospitalised for weeks after his glucose blood level became unstable.
Buthelezi had first announced in early February that the monarch had frequented the hospital for treatment. He was then admitted to ICU in early February when the unstable glucose level persisted.
The king died in hospital on Friday.
The KwaZulu-Natal government suspended its activities for a week to allow for mourning. President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a special official funeral category 1 for the late king, who ruled the Zulu monarchy since 1971.
In a statement on Saturday, Buthelezi said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the funeral will not be open for all to attend.
He said Zwelithini’s remains will not lay in state for viewing by the public, as has been the tradition in the monarchy.
“Unfortunately, however, we are faced with the reality that South Africa and the world remain within the grip of a deadly pandemic. The national regulations which are in place, restricting the number of people who may gather, cannot be contravened, even in a time of extraordinary distress.
“It would be unconscionable to allow His Majesty’s passing to become the cause of further deaths among His Majesty’s people. It has therefore been necessary to take the difficult decision for the late king not to [lay] in state.
“I, therefore, make an appeal, on behalf of the family, for mourners not to travel to Nongoma to pay their respects. It is vital that we avoid crowds gathering at this time, as this would place lives in jeopardy,” Buthelezi said.
People queued at the royal household in Nongoma on Saturday, hoping to pay their respects.
“The royal house itself has numbers in excess of what would be allowed in terms of regulations. It is, therefore, essential to impress upon people that the funeral will not be open for all to attend.
“As a special official funeral, it will be broadcast live so that the nation might honour His Majesty from their homes. We ask, with all due respect, that mourners therefore stay at home and use this time to pray,” Buthelezi added.
Zwelithini, whose rule spanned nearly 50 years, was the longest serving Zulu king.