Cloaked with animal skins, several hundred men in traditional warrior clothes are paying their last farewells to the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini who died on Friday at the Nongoma morgue in South Africa.

The remains of the leader, who died at the age of 72 after serving for 50 years, will be buried (“planted” as referred to in Zulu tradition) on Wednesday night at a private ceremony in the presence of men only, according to the Zulu rite.

A national tribute will be paid to him on Thursday.

Mobile phones in hand, jumping, singing and whistling as the procession passed, hundreds of people gathered in the small northeastern town of native Kwazulu province, images broadcast by Kenyan media showed.

Adorned in colourful traditional neck and headpieces Zulu maidens danced rhythmically.

The king’s body, kept in the city mortuary, is transported to the royal palace of KwaKhethomthandayo, one of the sovereign’s seven mansions, before the funeral begins.

Mourners have been flocking to the palace to pay their last respects, despite calls from the royal family to avoid gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bright colors, polyphonic songs and rhythms danced with small bells on the ankles

Police were at the site to try and enforce social distancing measures.

Nearby, cows in cattle trucks pulled by large machines were waiting on the side.

In Zulu culture, cattle, traditionally traded for women in the form of “lobolo” (dowry) or offered to royal families, has great symbolic value.

The name of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s successor is still kept secret. His last wishes must be read at the end of the funeral.

The ruler, as revered as he was controversial, had six wives and some thirty descendants.

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