Nongoma, KwaZulu Natal is one of the busiest towns in rural KwaZulu-Natal and lies north west of the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park. Nongoma is the royal City of Zululand. It is the home of King Goodwill Zwelethini, the hereditary leader of the nation and his royal palaces are among the main tourist attractions in the town. The royal family is highly respected and has a dominating presence in this rural and very traditional part of Zululand.
Derived from the Zulu word, “ngome” – the mother of songs – Nongoma was originally established in 1888 as a buffer between two warring Zulu factions to try to establish peace in the area. Two Zulu monarchs are laid to rest in the Nongoma area: King Solomon kaDinuzulu (1891–1933), son of King Dinizulu kaCetshwayo and King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon (1924–1968), son of King Solomon kaDinuzulu and father of the current Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
Local businessman Mlungisi Percy Nzuza, who owns Nongoma Lodge (where we slept) is a driving force behind local tourism in the town and arranged our braai the evening. This is where I met the King’s brother, prince Mbonisi Zulu and members of the local Round Table. We had various important conversations about Zulu braai traditions and preferences. During the visit to Nongoma I felt that it was important to present the king with a gift and sign of respect, and the next morning I was honoured when Prince Mbonisi received my gift of a cow on behalf of the King.