UMTATA : AUGUST 12, 2001

My heart cries out at the unfathomable tragedy which summons us here today. Grief has gathered us once again, as the Zulu Royal family and the Pondo Royal family are brought together to weep for a departed son. I shudder to think of the loss we have suffered so abruptly and without warning. Prince Phondolwendlovu was still a young lion, with the strength and nobility of youth. Time had not paid its full debt to purchase his life. His body was healthy and sickness had no claim over him. Yet, somehow, death was jealous of the treasure we owned and found its way to snatch the Prince from among us. I will never come to terms with the brutality of an accident that can take from the living one whose destiny seems written in such blazing colours.

Prince Phondolwendlovu was the younger son of my first cousin, Princess Jessica ka Solomon ka Dinuzulu, and the pride of his father, Kumkani Nyangilizwe Tutor, who acceded to the throne of Western Pondoland and became the last President of Transkei before the new dispensation. His paternal grandfather, Paramount Chief Victor Poto, approached the then Regent of the Zulu Nation, Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, seeking a daughter of King Solomon ka Dinuzulu to marry his son. At that time, I lived in the Dlamahlahla Palace with Princess Jessica, who became the bride of Prince Nyangilizwe Tutor. The son we mourn today is the son of this royal lineage, and his blood is the blood that binds together my family with his own.

Through lineage, Prince Phondolwendlovu received a natural generational blessing. From his mother’s side, from his grandmother Queen Nomapasi (nee Gwala), a parallel spiritual blessing came down the generations. Being a deeply religious woman, Queen Nomapasi instilled in her daughter a spirit of integrity, excellence and faith. From this unequalled legacy, Prince Phondolwendlovu emerged, a jewel in the crown of his parents. It is painful for me to come here today to bury this young man. I feel that this family is growing in historical greatness, for each member who passes takes their place in the collective memory of our people. Yet for us who remain behind, the family again seems smaller. Closing the gap that is left behind, we must draw closer together to muster the strength required to see us through our grief yet again.

It was with great sadness that I attended the funeral of Kumkani Nyangilizwe Tutor several years ago. My sorrow returned when my cousin, Princess Jessica, wife of Ikumkani Yamapondo aseNyandeni, also passed away. At the unveiling of her tombstone in Umtata, in December 1999, my heart lifted in the knowledge that Princess Feziwe, sister to Prince Phondolwendlovu, and the two children of their elder brother, remained with us as a continuation of the Pondo Royal family line. It is almost astonishing that one of these children now stands in line for succession to the traditional position of uKumkani waMaMpondo aseNyandeni. I am grieved that Prince Phondolwendlovu died before he assumed this position, and that his nephew is still so very young to carry such a heavy responsibility on his own. Yet this is a courageous and noble family, and I believe it would be rash, knowing them as I do, to judge wisdom by age, or to think that he would stand alone in this onerous position.

Indeed, I am reminded of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States, who at the age of 14 served as Secretary and translator to the first US Ambassador to Russia. A mere child was chosen not because circumstances withheld the choosing of an adult, but because the wisdom which founded the most powerful country in the world today, is the same wisdom that recognised how time and experience may at times darken the perspective of man. I myself have often been surprised by the insightfulness of young people, whose vision is as yet unclouded by the inevitable negative experiences of life. Young children in our own culture have the additional advantage of having a direct line to the wisdom of maturity, for we teach our children to seek and receive the knowledge of our older generation. Our children listen to their elders and gain wisdom which children in other cultures may need to bump their heads to acquire.

Prince Phondolwendlovu was raised in this culture of listening and learning, and he grew up to be a young man of great character and integrity. He learnt from his mother the same dignity and moral distinction taught by Queen Nomapasi to her daughter. His character distinguished him as a Prince as much as did his blood. I recall how my cousin, Princess Jessica, spoke of her children as the pinnacle of her achievements. She died in the prime of her life, yet she did not fail to give to the Pondo Royal family the vessels to continue its legacy. The full measure of life in which Prince Phondolwendlovu ought to have lived out this honour, has inexplicably been cut short. Yet, when I look at the manner in which he lived the brief time he had, I cannot help but feel that the full measure he deserved will be met in the greatness of his memory.

The Pondo Royal family has suffered a terrible loss. I stand here today feeling that one of my own sons has left us, for my family and his have walked as brother and sister for so many years. Words cannot adequately express the pain I feel for Princess Feziwe, for her niece and nephew, and for their family who mourns this day. If I could remove the suffering this family has endured time and time again, I would not hesitate to do it. Yet this is the natural cycle of life. We are brought together to weep for those who have departed, and brought together again to celebrate the joys of those who continue to live. Every milestone in life is marked by the gathering of family. I thank God that our families are knit together as one, so that my family may gather with yours and give strength to the hearts that are weakened. I express sympathies to the Regent of Enyandeni and the family and aMaMpondo aseNyandeni; to uKumkani waMaMpondo, Inkosi uMpondombini and the Royal Family and the whole Pondo nation.

Prince Phondolwendlovu is not dead. He lives on through the blood that binds this family. As we lay to rest his mortal remains on this sad day, let us take comfort in knowing that the spirit of Prince Phondolwendlovu has been freed from the fallen nature of this world. It is the fallen nature of this world which claimed his life. It is the fallibility of man and machine that took him from us. It is not God who wished our suffering, but it is God who binds our broken hearts as the suffering begins to ease. Prince Phondolwendlovu is released from the tragedy of accidents. As Christians, we hold the promise of being restored to perfection. We know that our God is before, is now, and is ever after. The promise of restoration and redemption should forever console us and train our eyes unfailingly on the great wonder of life.

I thank God for the life of Prince Phondolwendlovu. I thank Him for earthly life because of the blessing of family. I thank Him for spiritual life in Christ, for it is eternal and set free from the law of sin and death. Now that our little brother is free, may he rest in eternal peace.