Buganda kingdom has mourned the death of the South African Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini.
In a statement, the Buganda Premier Charles Peter Mayiga said that the late has been a close and great friend to the kingdom and Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II for a very long time.
“The late king attended both Kabaka Mutebi’s coronation in 1995 and he also attended Kabaka’s wedding in 1999, so he was a good friend to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II and the kingdom at large,”he noted.
Goodwill Zwelithini, the controversial but revered king of the Zulus, South Africa’s largest ethnic group, passed on Friday aged 72 after weeks in the hospital for a diabetes-related illness, the royal palace announced.
The king wielded great influence among millions of Zulus through his largely ceremonial and spiritual role despite having no official power.
During a decades-long reign, he revived festivals celebrating virgin women, was blamed for fuelling deadly xenophobic violence, slammed gays as rotten and enjoyed a lavish and hedonistic lifestyle in a country where millions live in poverty.
The king was admitted to hospital last month for diabetes.
Born in Nongoma, a small town in the south-eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province, Zwelithini ascended the throne in 1971 during the apartheid era.
Returning from hiding over assassination fears, Zwelithini was crowned the eighth Zulu monarch at the age of 23.
The Zulus are South Africa’s largest ethnic group with over 11 million people.
Traditional rulers play a largely symbolic role in modern South Africa, where they are constitutionally recognised.