President Cyril Ramaphosa and some VIP mourners at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s memorial service had to be whisked away from KwaKhethomthandayo royal palace in Nongoma after unruly Zulu regiments threatened his security.
This happened on Thursday around 1pm, shortly after the sombre service concluded.
Throughout the service, some unruly regiments in full Zulu traditional gear, carrying traditional weapons like spears, knobkieries and shields camped at the gates of the palace, trying to get in.
An armed battalion of SAPS officers kept them at bay for hours by closing the iron gate.
In retaliation, the angry regiments, which were made up of about 150 people, said no one would leave. They closed the road leading in and out of the palace.
Then came the time for Ramaphosa and some VIP mourners to leave the palace and the regiments were having none of it. They blocked the armed SAPS battalion from allowing mourners to leave.
It was not immediately clear whether the SAPS battalion feared a stampede and therefore kept closing the gate.
What would have been a chaotic scene was averted by a quick-thinking group of presidential protection unit members who tore down the royal razor fence and opened a temporary exit point for the president’s convoy.
Swiftly and in a scene similar to those often seen in movies, Ramaphosa’s convoy sped off while some VIP protectors in camouflage uniforms ran on the side of the convoy, protecting the president and pushing aside several puzzled mourners who seemingly had not idea what was happening.
After gaining entry to the palace, the slogan chanting and singing regiments marched straight to the main house of mourning inside the palace and, as a sign of respect, bowed in front of it.
However, the Zulu royal family did not take kindly to their action as an unidentified senior prince approached them and berated them.
The prince said that while they believed that, as the king’s regiments, they should have been allowed to come inside if there was no Covid-19, their action tainted the monarchy.
“Your actions are tainting the burial of the king which was conducted in a befitting manner. Look at you, there are no masks (to prevent the spread of Covid-19),” the angry prince said to the crowd.
Also joining the fray was Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who was able to reason with the regiments to leave the palace. The ageing Buthelezi was inaudible and Independent Media could not hear what exactly he told the regiments.
The mourning process by the regiments and maidens was continuing outside the palace.