Lion skins and dancing at Xhosa king coronation in S.Africa

15th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Clad in animal skins, Mpendulo Sigcawu was crowned king of the Xhosa people in South Africa on Friday at an elaborate ceremony attended by thousands of his subjects, dignitaries and President Jacob Zuma.

The coronation of King Sigcawu was marked by day-long celebrations with choirs, dancers and drummers in the small town of Willowvale, home of the Xhosa royal family.

Sigcawu becomes the first Xhosa king in a decade, ending a hiatus caused by a succession dispute and a political inquiry.

The ceremony was the first coronation of a tribal king since the end of the apartheid regime, and President Zuma told guests that traditional leaders had a key role to play in democratic South Africa.

During the ceremony, a lion skin was laid across Sigcawu's shoulders and he was presented with a symbolic stick, making him the official king of the Xhosa, one of the country's major ethnic groups.

Traditional monarchs have no formal power in South Africa, but they command strong tribal loyalty among millions of people, and are recognised under the post-apartheid constitution.

Many at the colourful event were dressed in extravagant outfits, including feathered headdresses, beaded necklaces and grass skirts, though President Zuma chose to wear a sober business suit.

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"Democracy and the traditional system -- there ought to be no conflict between these two," Zuma said during a speech.

"This coronation today marks the end of a painful era of colonial subjugation and oppression and ushers in a new beginning of strengthening who we are as South Africans.

"We are proud of our institutions, including traditional leadership, and that we are able to express ourselves today in our rich diversity," said Zuma.

Among the foreigners present were many African diplomats, and Chris Trott, the British Consul General in Cape Town.

The ENCA television news channel said that 15 cows, 30 sheep and 100 chickens were slaughtered for a feast for several thousand people after the ceremony.

Other South African kings hit the headlines earlier this year when the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini gave a speech accusing immigrants of being responsible for rising crime rates and demanded that they leave the country.

He was then blamed for triggering a spate of savage attacks on migrants from other African countries that left seven people dead and thousands displaced.

King Sigcawu made a clear effort at the ceremony to distance himself from the violence.

"What do we think we are doing when we kill them? They never stole anyone's job," he said in his speech. "We say down with xenophobia!"

The last Xhosa monarch King Xolilizwe Sigcawu came to the throne in 1965 and died in 2005.

The new king's coronation was delayed for several years, in part by a dispute over the line of succession and a government inquiry into how royal families would participate in modern South Africa.

"Today is part and parcel of the culmination of the restoration of our dignity as a community, as a kingdom and as people," Zolani Mkiva, Xhosa royal spokesman and praise singer, told ENCA news.


© 2015 AFP

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