UKZN’s Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, which is based at Mtubatuba in northern KwaZulu-Natal, honoured His Majesty, King Goodwill Zwelithini as its first Patron on July 8.


Africa Centre Director, Professor Marie-Louise Newell, bestowed the honour on His Majesty and took the opportunity to brief him on the Centre’s planned Youth Programme.  The King has a passion for community upliftment, with a special focus on youth and health/life-orientated issues. 

‘His unwavering support for the Annual Reed Dance, a ceremony for the young maidens which celebrates their virginity and abstinence emphasises the King’s dedication to mentoring the youth in their daily lifestyles. The Annual First Fruit Ceremony which is held in December is the male version of the reed dance which celebrates the nation coming together for a prayer for the incoming year. His Majesty revived the circumcision project three years ago and has been a driving force in ensuring its success,’ noted a media statement from the Centre.


In his acceptance speech, the King stressed that: ‘It is important that each and every one of us should become champions of HIV and AIDS... The young ones must … start to be told how important it is to behave themselves!’


Quoting the HIV testing campaign slogan “I am responsible, we are responsible, South Africa is taking responsibility,” His Majesty raised concerns about South Africa’s ability to achieve some of the Millennium Goals by 2014. He said that poverty, unemployment and universal treatment for HIV/AIDS are only some of the goals at risk but ‘I encourage this approach [the campaign slogan] to improve the social fabric of our country.’ 


One of the Centre’s ongoing community-based clinical practices is male circumcision which is encouraged by His Majesty. ‘Not a single boy has died from our clinical male circumcision since its inception. By encouraging male circumcision I was announcing cleanliness to our young boys and to do away with unprotected sex in the process. I was also not saying they should then go out and rape,’ he said.


The King raised his concern about HIV positive patients who are not open about their status and hide behind other diseases such as Tuberculosis. He encouraged a culture of honesty coupled with acceptance as all South Africans are either infected or affected by HIV.