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Zulu king: I won’t let my people forget our history

King Goodwill Zwelithini discusses the past, present and future of the Zulu nation and keeping its culture alive.

KwaZulu-Natal, a region in eastern South Africa with the Drakensberg Mountains to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, is home to one of the most powerful kingdoms in the African continent – the Zulu.

The word Zulu means “sky” or “heaven” and, according to Zulu history, it was the name of the ancestor who founded the nation at the start of the 17th century.


by ”Goodwill

is not something that is facing the Zulu nation only. It faces all race groups in this country who will one day find themselves in a very difficult position: not knowing where they come from. What helps us is today, I know my history. When I stand before my people, I have to make sure I remind them.”]

The then newly born nation existed in relative peace until the late 1800s, when British troops invaded Zulu territory and divided the land.

The Zulu never regained their independence. 

Today, as estimated 11 million Zulus live in South Africa.

They account for about 22 percent of the population, but other smaller communities live in nearby countries, such as Lesotho, where there are around 320,000 Zulus, Zimbabwe (152,000), Swaziland (106,000), Malawi (64,000), Botswana (5,300), and Mozambique (3,900). 

And they recognise one man – Goodwill Zwelithini – as their king.

King Goodwill rules under the “traditional leadership” clause of South Africa’s republican constitution.

Although his role is largely ceremonial, he as seen as safeguarding the Zulu people’s connection with their history.

King Goodwill came to power after his father King Cyprian died in 1968, but he wasn’t crowned until 1971.

Before he could become king, he was forced to take refuge outside KwaZulu-Natal because of assassination threats.  

King Goodwill, 68, discusses the past, present, and future of the Zulu nation in his first ever sit-down television interview.

On Talk to Al Jazeera he discusses the threats his culture has faced, reviving traditions some see as controversial, and the lack of emphasis on Zulu and other people’s histories in the curriculums of South African schools. 

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