For the first time, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini will host a Diwali celebration at his palace as part of his efforts to bring about social cohesion amid recent tensions between the Indian and Zulu communities. The celebrations on October 7 will be co-hosted by the Sivananda World Peace Foundation, headed by South African- Indian businessman Ishwar Ramlutchman, who has been anointed a Prince of the Zulu nation by the 69-year-old Zwelithini. The four-hour afternoon programme at the palace in rural Nongoma will include cultural song and dance items from both the Hindu and Zulu communities. "During Diwali there is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere and this festival brings about unity. It instills charity in the hearts of people, they embrace one another with love and Diwali is a great unifying force," Zwelithini said as he called for all South Africans to celebrate Diwali together. "All communities should respect one another despite our religion or nationality. This event is very historic as it's the first Diwali celebrations that are going to take place at the royal palace.
As the monarch, I am delighted to celebrate Diwali together with my people of my Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal, especially my Hindu brothers and sisters," the King said in a statement. Zwelithini has made a concerted effort to bring about reconciliation as some sections in the Black community continue to charge Indians, who make up a large section of the region's population, of exploitation of the indigenous communities. Last year, Zwelithini visited for the first time in 40 years the Grey Street Mosque in Durban, a national heritage site which was built by the first Indian settlers who arrived from India in 1860. The area of the King's jurisdiction is home to one of the largest Indian-origin communities outside of India. According to some unofficial estimates, half a million India-origin people reside in the region. Ramlutchman said Diwali was a symbol of hope for all South Africans to unite as one nation. "We need to come together to celebrate the rich heritage that our forefathers have kept alive since they arrived in South Africa in 1860. I salute His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu for celebrating Diwali at the Usuthu Royal Palace. This is a milestone in the history of the Zulu monarch and our country at large. I urge all communities to come join us during this festival," Ramlutchman said. During a courtesy call to the King by Indian diplomats late last year, the monarch had reaffirmed that the Indian and Zulu South Africans could work together for the benefit of the entire population of the country.
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