Tributes are pouring in for the former leader of the AmaZulu regiment, Mlandeni Mgilija Nhleko. He died last night at the St Benedict Hospital in Nongoma, where he was treated for a stress-related illness and TB.
Nhleko was criticised for leading regiments to Nkandla the Sunday before former president Jacob Zuma handed himself over to police, in July.
He was reportedly fired as leader of the Zulu regiment after allegedly questioning the authority of the current AmaZulu King, Misuzulu kaZwelithini.
Nhleko came into the national spotlight months before July, he made the presence of the regiment felt as he led them when they accompanied the remains of late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu from the CBD – to the KwaKhethomthandayo Palace in Nongoma.
The news of his passing came as a shock to those who had fallen in love with his firm leadership style and charisma.
His brother Sethi Nhleko says the former AmaZulu regiment leader’s health took a knock after the demise of the King.
“Since I was born into my adulthood, I have never seen my brother sick, it was a shock even seeing him crying after the demise of our King. He was devastated but as preparations were done to inter the King. We observed how he worked hard, we believe that is where his health took a knock and he was also depressed.”
Amabutho accompanying King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu to KwaKhethomthandayo Palace:
Cultural expert from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Sihawu Ngubane says Nhleko’s role was critical in serving the AmaZulu King and the nation. Ngubane says in the role of a regiment commander has always been important in the history of the AmaZulu nation.
“But his role has always been there as rendering service to his Majesty, His Majesty would not move without uMgilija, uMgilija was the leader or the Commander in Chief of Amabutho and Amabutho in the history of the Zulu nation were a prerogative of the Kings, not the Chiefs because they are like the army you recruit and mobilise them and they serve the King. And we remember that during the passing on of His Majesty they played a very major role and uMgilija was in the forefront of that role their main service to protect the King.”
Meanwhile, Ngubane says the criticism that Nhleko received for leading some of the members of the regiment to the home of Zuma in Nkandla, in a show of show solidarity, might be among the reasons for his depression.
“I think when he appeared in Nkandla his course came under scrutiny by most people because there was a claim that he was not permitted to go and support the former president Msholozi so since then he was no longer eager to be in the media. He was very disappointed about the act, it affected him, I think it led to depression. I think that could have led to his passing on. “
Social media platforms were also flooded with messages of condolence.
Many remember Nhleko’s sense of humour and his strategy in avoiding answering questions from the media about what was happening inside the Zulu Royal Household.