With the sad passing of King Goodwill Zwelithini, Muslims will remember him for his outreach to the community – but the Zulu monarch was also criticised for being a tool of the apartheid regime, writes Ismail Suder.
Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelethini who passed away last week has been a firm friend of the Muslim community, and in 2016 was invited to speak at the historic Juma Musjid in Durban where he called for social cohesion and brotherhood of all the people’s in South Africa.
Ahmed Valley Mohammed (AV), Chairman of the Board of trustees of the Juma Musjid, told Al Qalam during an interview that he shared a lifetime of a friendship with the King, and he would truly miss him.
Not only were they close friends, but both the King and Mohammed were honoured with a “Lifetime Achievement Award”, along with Prince Mongusuthu Buthelezi.
During his address at the Juma Musjid on June 3, 2016, he called for social cohesion. Other faith leaders were also present including Cardinal Napier. He asked for the Muslim Community to help rebuild South Africa and promote social cohesion amongst all people of the country. (He had returned to the Mosque after 40 years as he is a dedicated Christian). I gifted him with a Quran and he gave me an Ostrich Egg.”
At the unveiling of a statue of the King and Nelson Mandela at Durban’s Mitchell Park in 2018, Mohammed was a special guest – and the King had asked him to lead an international prayer.
Mohammed told Al Qalam: “We as an Indian community, we have lost a great leader who had our welfare at heart. We enjoyed protection from him. He promised us that on numerous times and his legacy for social cohesion, was very comforting for all in Kwa-Zulu Natal”.
But the king was not without critics. Many had accused him of being a useful tool of the Apartheid regime.
He was criticised for being willing to work with the white-minority government in power before 1994, and not wanting to cooperate with the current government’s land redistribution polices.
He was at times critical of the governing ANC, saying the nation should not be led by “thieves”.
He also once controversially praised the former apartheid government for building a strong economy, saying the ANC were reversing those gains.
In recent years, King Zwelithini became increasingly critical of the ANC’s land redistribution policy.
As chairman of the Ingonyama Trust, he was the custodian of swathes of traditional land in KwaZulu-Natal, making up about 30% of the area of the province.
He was worried about the government’s policy of taking over land without compensation.