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March 12, 2021 2:53 pm

South Africa’s Zulu King Remembered as ‘True Friend’ to Israel

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini arrives to hear Former US President Barack Obama delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader’s birth, in Johannesburg, South Africa July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The South African Jewish community and Israeli officials honored on Friday King Goodwill Zwelithini, the longtime leader of South Africa’s Zulu nation who died at the age of 72.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) extended “sincerest condolences to the Royal Family and the Zulu nation,” praising Zwelithini’s ties to the country’s Jewish population.

“In a reign spanning half a century, King Zwelithini was the recognized representative leader whose royal stature embodied the greater history, heritage and culture of the Zulu people in South Africa. Appointed to that position at the height of the apartheid era, he helped to unite and encourage his followers during the difficult years leading up to the democratic transition and in adapting to the new challenges of healing and nation building,” the group, an umbrella organization for the country’s Jewish groups, said in a statement.

“King Zwelithini will also be gratefully remembered by the Jewish community, particularly in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, as a warm and generous friend whose door was always open. Over the years, successive generations of Jewish communal leaders, businessmen and philanthropic organizations in KZN enjoyed his support in a range of far-reaching initiatives that brought lasting benefits to the people of the province and further afield,” the SAJBD continued.

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Israeli diplomatic officials also remembered Zwelithini, the monarch of South Africa’s largest ethnic group for 50 years, who had supported close ties between the country’s ruling African National Congress party and Israel. In 2018, after the party voted to downgrade relations with Israel, he lauded the Jewish state’s water management technology and his work with local pro-Israel groups on combating HIV.

Lior Keinan, the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and several other countries in the region, extended “heartfelt condolences to the Royal family and the Zulu Kingdom.”

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. King Zwelithini was a great leader to the Zulu Nation and a true friend of the State of Israel who always looked for a way to create dialogue between our two nations,” he wrote on Twitter.

Yaakov Finkelstein, the Israeli Consul General in Mumbai who has previously served in the South African embassy, also tweeted his condolences.

“Saddened by the untimely demise of H.E. King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu. He was a dear friend of Israel and in my stint in SA we worked closely to increase cooperation between the #Zulu People and #Israel,” he tweeted.

“King Zwelethini was a highly respected man of principle who was committed to serving and protecting his people and the great traditions and values of the Zulu people,” said the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel. “IBSI honors King Zwelethini’s unwavering support of the Jewish state of Israel, and his commitment to a strong South Africa-Israel relationship.”

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