Mzansi’s Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu has had to cancel his intended visit to the country, which was scheduled for this weekend amid a backlash from the Gwanda community who in the past couple of weeks have voiced their reservations about the visit.
“Zwelithini you are a dead man the day you set foot in Zimbabwe”, ZimEye.com news readers voiced in concert last week as the Zulu King contemplated visiting his brother who is based in Gwanda.
“We will teach you a big lesson here”, another reader posted
The State Media now reports that King Zwelithini was meant to attend a three- day jamboree, to be held in the mining town from Friday. The event is set to include about 102 gospel artistes jetting in from neighbouring South Africa to perform at a free-of-charge show to be held at Pelandaba Stadium and the official opening of a new 1 000-seater Brethren-in-Christ Church.
Sources close to the organisers revealed that after the publication of the story exposing the intended visit there was a backlash from the Gwanda community, with the provincial leadership convening a Joint Operations Command meeting for the organisers to explain the intention of the visit.
Most of the residents reportedly stated that the Zulu monarch was not welcome in the mining town. A delegation from South Africa had to be sent to the town a couple of weeks ago to assess the mood after the publication of the story, with a report back meeting being held in Pretoria last week.
In an interview with the State Media, however, Zulu royal family spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu distanced the King from the intended visit alleging that no one had contacted them or invited any member of the royal family to Zimbabwe.
We were actually surprised when we heard of this issue, there was never such an arrangement and no one ever contacted us. However, I must hasten to say that we did not develop cold feet as is being suggested in some circles. The king was simply never invited. If King Zwelithini today decides to go to Zimbabwe he will go because the King travels any place where he wants to,” said Prince Zulu.
Matabeleland South Provincial Minister Abednico Ncube declined to comment saying his office had nothing to say on the matter. “I would rather not comment on that matter, contact the organisers or King Zwelithini himself,” said Minister Ncube.
A South Africa-based businessman, who is the sponsor of the three-day jamboree, Mr Justice Maphosa said the meetings were part of their fortnightly meetings which were meant to update the organisers from the neighbouring country on progress that was being made in Gwanda.
“We have been holding these meetings fortnightly for the past three months so there is nothing sinister about them. As you might know, there are organisers from Zimbabwe and South Africa so these are just feedback meetings to assess the preparedness for this three-day jamboree.
“It was a meeting of people from this side in South Africa, the church in Gwanda and officials from Gwanda town council, looking at such issues as security, the mood ahead of the shows and a number of other logistical issues,” said Mr Maphosa.
Questioned on the alleged invitation of the Zulu king, Mr Maphosa distanced himself from the matter claiming that whoever had confirmed the issue had overstepped his authority as this was never part of their original plans.
“Simply, the King is not coming. However, what should be noted is that whether the king attends is neither here nor there because this is only about the church and spreading the word of God, we simply want to celebrate the opening of the church’s building.
“However, I must assure people in Zimbabwe that the gospel show is indeed going ahead, everything is now in place save for a few logistical issues,” said Mr Maphosa.
Mr Maphosa is said to be funding the king’s visit and the gospel jamboree as part of events that will culminate in his brother, Justin’s wedding. He is also alleged to have been the major funder of the construction of the new church.
However, sources close to the organisation of the jamboree claimed that at one point there was a possibility that the events could be cancelled totally after the backlash that was experienced after reports that the organisers were going to invite King Zwelithini leaked.
“The South African organisers panicked even more when the provincial leadership called a meeting in the town and summoned the local organisers to answer to claims of the intended visit by the Zulu king, hence they had to send an advance team to check the mood in the town so as to assess the safety of the travelling contingent.
“What happened is that they had not foreseen the backlash that was experienced hence the abrupt abandonment of the idea,” said the source.
King Zwelithini made headlines early this year after he was quoted as having said foreigners must pack up and leave the country, with many alleging that this was what fuelled the xenophobic attacks across South Africa.
A couple of weeks ago Sunday News spoke to one of the organisers Reverend Sipho Mizha who revealed that it was their hope that “one of the South African kings” graces the two occasions.
“On that matter we are still doing the logistics, it is highly possible that King Zwelithini will come grace the gospel show and the official opening of the new 1 000-seater Brethren-in-Christ Church.
“Although it is not yet 100 percent confirmed, it is our wish that one of the South African kings be in the town come the weekend of 28 to 30 August,” said Rev Mizha.
Artistes that are expected to descend on the Matabeleland South provincial capital include Rebecca Malope, Hlengiwe Mhlaba, Lusanda Spiritual Group, Tshepiso Motaung, Dumi Mkokstad, Bethusile Mcinga and jazz legend Tshepo Tshola.