Cape Town - Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu has come out in support of the Proteas ahead of the upcoming Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.
Zwelithini hosted the Proteas and cricket delegates at his Usuthu Palace in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Nongoma on Thursday, a ceremonious occasion that was a first for South African cricket.
"Bayede", as he is respectfully known, is the reigning king and monarch of the Zulu nation, and is the longest serving King of the Zulu kingdom with a 48-year rule. He is an avid cricket supporter and recently attended the third One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka at Kingsmead in Durban in March.
“Today is a special day for us and the Zulu nation,” he said during his address. “Sport, we have seen, can unite countries and it gives me the greatest pleasure to play a small part in that. Cricket has often been looked down on in the black communities but we have Hashim (Amla), Kagiso (Rabada), Lungi (Ngidi) and Andile (Phehlukwayo) here and that has given me hope that we are on the right path.
“The Proteas have shown that all cultures and races can be united. I thank them for taking the time out to come to the Zulu monarch, they are true ambassadors of our country. Every player that is heading to the World Cup is a warrior, they are the defenders of our country and the cricket field will be the battlefield. I give them my blessings, I know they will make us proud.”
Amla, Ngidi, Rabada and Phehlukwayo are the first cricketers to visit the monarch, and received royal blessings and words of wisdom and encouragement from Zwelithini.
Amla says it was humbling to be in the presence of an illustrious leader who has shaped a share of South Africa’s history.King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu meets Proteas stars Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo and Kagiso Rabada (Picture credit: Cricket South Africa)
“It was a truly humbling experience and visit,” he said. “We drove a long way to his palace but it was worth the effort. He is a leader among men and for him to take time out of his schedule to give us words of wisdom and encouragement is truly a big motivation for us.
“This visit is bigger than just the World Cup,” he explained. “Every player in our team is a role model and a big part of our team culture is having inclusivity in diversity. It was a wonderful feeling to be welcomed by the monarch with such warmth and enthusiasm and I leave here knowing so much more about our history and some of my team mates’ culture. He gave us pearls of wisdom that we will carry with us even after the World Cup.”
Cricket South Africa CEO Thabang Moroe says it is a proud moment for South African cricket.
“It’s not often as an organisation that you have an opportunity to be in His Majesty’s presence, let alone to be hosted for lunch at his palace and spiritual home. He has shown great support for cricket and his inspiration and wisdom is something we take to heart. We walked away from his palace motivated to be better leaders and people,” he concluded.
The Proteas’ opening match of the Cricket World Cup against England also coincides with the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, where the Zulu Kingdom defeated the British Empire. The King will be making a ceremonious visit to the UK to mark the occasion.