He rules over 65 tribes in South Africa and his mission is to unite all the tribes across Africa as a nation, reconnecting them with their identity as Africans. Meet King Bhungane III, of the Kingdom of Embo.
King Bhungane III, soft-spoken and gentle, has none of the airs one would associate with royalty.
"In modern South Africa, my role is to assist the poorest of the poor. My task now is to reunite my people and guide them spiritually, culturally, customarily and traditionally," Bhungane III told a visiting IANS correspondent recently.
Bhungane was crowned king only in 2015. Before that he was a member of the African National Congress.
The king was attending the Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla in March as a special invitee of Morocco's monarch, Mohammed VI.
Bhungane traces the ancestry of his Bantu-speaking people to a few thousand years, from the time of the Biblical King Solomon. According to him, his people migrated down from the Great Lakes region in Central Africa a few hundred years ago.
He recounted interesting traditions of the Bantu people of how they take their last child to the river, smear him or her with clay and "introduce the child to the river" -- symbolising a deep connect with nature.
"When the child is one month old, he or she is taken to the river and smeared with clay and covered with leopard skin. The child is presented to the water. We explain the name of the child (to the river), and after that wash the clay off the child into the river, so that the aroma of the child is in the river. We dry the child with leopard skin and walk away with it, and don't look back at the river. That's our tradition, and it still exists."
The tradition is over 3,000 years, he says.
When the child turns one, the ritual is repeated. Then a goat is slaughtered and presented to the ancestors. "We tell them, this child is your child."
Then "some fluid from the knee of the sacrificed goat" is taken and rubbed on the knees and ankles of the child. "So that when the child steps up, it must not be a weak child."
In another ritual, a piece of skin "from the back of the left leg" of the sacrificed goat is taken and is tied like an arm band on the right hand of the child.
"It signifies that this child belongs to God and is protected by ancestors," he says.
Recounting the process of choosing a king, Bhungane says: "When a king is chosen, it will come from the prophet, or a seer in the tribe. They will go to other tribes also to see if the seer gave them the exact story (about the chosen one) to verify. They may go to three-four different tribes."
After the verification is done, there is a ritual to be followed.
"The chosen successor must be taken to the mountain. At the peak of the mountain, the prophets call the gods and present the future king.
"They use certain herbs to enhance his powers. From there, the successor is then presented to the family to say he is now ready. Then a feast is held.
"The prophets tell us what name he should bear -- the title. Like myself, I was told that I was the reincarnation of Bhungane I and II."
According to Bhungane, almost every Bantu-speaking tribe follows the tradition. "We still hold on to the custom today.
Who are the Bantu people?
"We were the first people in (what is now) the Congo, and the first migration (southwards) was with us. We are the first custodians of the kingdom and the first custodians of the rulership of the Bantus."
The king says that British colonisation "destroyed our kingdom. It took us many years to resuscitate our kingdom".
What about the future of his people?
"My thrust is to unite them under one spirituality first. To find our identity, to rebuild our identity and encourage them to education. We need to reconnect, some of them no longer believe in our tradition, they believe in churches.
"We need to reintroduce them to what we are talking about. Some of them do not adhere to the tradition of their kingdoms, some of them think they are white. They are confused..."
Bhungane says he will appeal to his people at the spiritual level, irrespective of what religion they follow. "I don't belong to any religious denomination, I am at a spiritual level. I can connect to anybody. So my people can come back -- it's connecting with high spirituality."
Bhungane says the king becomes a spiritual guide to the nation.
"He sees things that ordinary humans do not see. He has a direct connection with God in terms of communication, and he is the guide to the nation, because he will get direct commands, direct orders from God."
And as part of the connect, in these modern times, the king has started a Facebook page to keep his people abreast of the news concerning the community.
(Ranjana Narayan was in Morocco at the invitation of the Crans Montana Forum. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)