Casket draped in lion and leopard skins for late AmaXhosa king Mpendulo Sigcawu

Dignitaries at Nqadu Great Place for the funeral of king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu.
Dignitaries at Nqadu Great Place for the funeral of king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu.
Image: Bantu Holomisa via Twitter

Thousands of mourners in full traditional attire, from all walks of life, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Friday gathered at the Nqadu Great Place, outside Idutywa in the Eastern Cape, to pay their last respects to the late AmaXhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu.

Sigcawu, who died at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha after a long illness, assumed the mantle of monarchy on January 24 2006 after the death of his father, king Xolilizwe Sigcawu, on December 31 2005.

Zwelonke was the 22nd Xhosa monarch, he is the 10th in the lineage of Gcaleka – the great house of King Phalo.

In 2010 Zwelonke was declared legitimate king of all AmaXhosa by President Jacob Zuma after a determination of the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims, also known as the Nhlapo Commission, which probed the authenticity of traditional leaders in SA.

At about 4am on Friday, Sigcawu's body was collected by senior AmaXhosa traditional leaders at a secret mortuary in Idutywa.

On arrival at the Great Place, his body was taken to the main house, as tradition dictates, where he was welcomed by his four wives, eight children, family elders and other senior traditional leaders.

His casket was then draped in a lion and leopard skin.

This was then followed by a two-hour church service, named “ucoceka”, before his entire family could view his body.

Sigcawu, 51, was involved in a serious car accident just three weeks before his death. The accident, however, has not been attributed as the cause of his death.

Present at the king's funeral were former state president Thabo Mbeki, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, the Ndebele kingdom's king Makhosonke Mabena, Lesotho kingdom's Morena Seeiso Masupha, all six Eastern Cape kings, Western Thembu leader Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, AmaRharhabe Queen Noloyiso Sandile and many other local chiefs.


X