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S.African officials dispute cost of Zulu queen’s reburial

Officials in the South African city of Durban said Thursday that $45 million reportedly earmarked to rebury the mother of the Zulu king would also pay for the development of a park and museum.

Public broadcaster SABC had reported the government would spend 300 million rand ($45 million, 30 million euros) to rebury the exhumed remains of Queen Thomozile Jezangani KaNdwandwe Zulu, the mother of King Goodwill Zwelithini, traditional leader of the country’s largest ethnic group.

“The municipality would like to refute these claims,” the city said in a statement.

“The reburial is part of a project that is aimed at the development of Umkhumbane Freedom Park. This project will include a fully-fledged interactive cultural museum and heritage centre, linked to associated commercial, retail and other complimentary activities.

“It is estimated that the whole project will cost 300 million rand.”

The king had asked officials in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal to help him find the remains of his mother, who died in the 1950s and whose final resting place was unknown.

After a more than two-year search that was drawn out by legal red tape, Durban officials announced they had found a grave containing the remains of a woman named Thoko Zulu and carried out DNA tests that identified her as the queen.

She will be reburied Saturday at a memorial site in the Durban neighbourhood of Cato Manor, where she lived at the end of her life and where the cultural museum and heritage centre will be developed, officials said.

The king is the symbolic leader of South Africa’s 11 million Zulus but has no formal political power.

His finances are controlled by KwaZulu-Natal provincial authorities and his lavish lifestyle — as well as the future of the Zulu royal house — have been the subject of much debate in South Africa.

Zwelithini is a descendant of King Shaka, the 19th-century leader who is still revered for uniting a large swathe of the country as the Zulu nation and waging bloody battles against the region’s British colonisers.