The Zulu royal family in South Africa is arguing about the successor

The Zulu royal family in South Africa is arguing about the successor

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Last March, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted officially Prince Misuzulu Sinqobile Zulu as the king of the Zulu, the ethnic group residing primarily in the KwaZulu-Natal province of eastern South Africa. On Saturday, Misuzulu is set to attend one of the most significant ceremonies ahead of the official coronation: not all members of the royal family, however, believe it is right that he inherited the royal title from his father, who died last year, and also believe it for his lifestyle and unfit to fill that role for some of the scandals in which he has been involved.

As the New York Times reported in a recent article, various factions of the family have been wrestling for over a year over the right to nominate the long-lived King Goodwill Zwelithini’s successor amid public accusations, insults and lawsuits.

With around 14 million members, the Zulus are the largest and most influential ethnic group in South Africa. Coming from diverse communities of migrant peoples of southern Africa, they are polygamous and consider the father of their nation to be Shaka, who lived between 1787 and 1828 and founded the Zulu Empire after subduing various neighboring peoples thanks to effective military strategies and battles, historians consider as very bloody. Their king is always a descendant of Shaka’s family.

Specifically, the Zulu king formally has no political power. However, he is the moral leader of a kingdom roughly the size of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta put together, and has a budget of around ยฃ4m that the South African government allocates to the royal family each year. Because of his great influence, he is the envy of the kings of South Africa’s other ethnic groups and highly respected by the country’s politicians, who always pay close attention to him, especially at elections.

The traditions governing the passage of the crown into the royal family are passed down orally and are not written down in any official document, which has often led to conflicts over the succession. Such is the case of Misuzulu, the first child of Zwelithini’s third wife, who died in March 2021 at the age of 72 after 50 years of reign.

Misuzulu is 47 years old and according to The New York Times, he dresses, behaves and is treated like royalty in every way. As well as the approval of many members of the royal family and that of Ramaphosa, he also enjoys the support of influential politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi who is 93 years old and has held important positions in both the Zulu group and South African politics and is known for founding the Inkata Freedom Party, the Zulu nationalist party.

However, not everyone believes that Misuzulu is the righteous successor to Zwelithini, who had a total of six wives and 28 recognized children.

The Zulu royal family in South Africa is arguing about

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini (centre) along with Inkata Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi (right) and African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, future President of South Africa, at an event in 2008 (AP Photo/File )

Born in rural KwaZulu-Natal Province, Misuzulu lived for a number of years in eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, known as Swaziland until a few years ago. He completed his studies in South Africa and then studied at a university in the United States, first in Indiana and then in Florida, where he earned a degree in international trade and for a number of years worked with a Baptist church engaged in various charitable activities in Africa dedicated. After about ten years he returned to South Africa, called by his father, where he began to work for a company that manufactured pipes.

In Zwelithini’s will, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu, mother of Misuzulu, was named as temporary regent, which was taken by most members of the royal family as an indication that the future successor should be one of her children. Tensions grew, however, when in April 2021, less than two months after the king’s death, Mantfombi also died: his will specifically stated that the heir to the throne was Misuzulu.

Royal members supporting Misuzulu argue that because she was part of a different royal family (her father was Sobhuza II, former King of eSwatini, and her brother Mswati III, the current king). , and as his first son, Misuzulu would be the first heir to the throne. Others believe the successor must be Simakade ka Zwelithini, the eldest son of Zwelithini, who claims to be supported by older members of the royal family and who had already attended the ceremony last week, which Misuzulu is expected to walk through on Saturday, to try to hinder his preaching.

However, Simakades was not the only attempt to prevent Misuzulu from becoming king.

Thirteen members of the royal family claimed that Zwelithini’s signature on the will was forged and took the case to court.

In particular, Princes Mbonisi Zulu and Vulindlela Zulu, brothers of the late king, accused Buthelezi of wanting to control the appointment of the new king and favoring a successor – Misuzulu – who should have done as he pleased. Mbonisi and Vulinlela also claimed to be the people expected to appoint the new king, as the oldest members of the royal family. For his part, Buthelezi denied the allegations, saying publicly he was more credible than Mbonisi, who was born of an extramarital affair by his father (himself a former king) and was not raised in the royal family.

However, Mbonisi also filed a lawsuit against her nephew’s coronation, citing articles in the South African press that Misuzulu drank too much alcohol and had three illegitimate children, with two cousins โ€‹โ€‹and a royal family maid. Misuzulu was also accused of being arrogant and conceited when he appeared at a ceremony commemorating the death of his mother wearing the traditional leopard skin badges in May 2021, surrounded by Zulu warriors singing choruses dedicated to the new king.

1660948276 109 The Zulu royal family in South Africa is arguing about

Misuzulu surrounded by Zulu warriors during the ceremony commemorating her late mother in May 2021 (AP Photo)

1660922301 misuzulu 2021In the New York Times interview, the first given to a foreign newspaper and one of the few given to the press in general, Misuzulu admitted to drinking occasionally while claiming he had no problem with alcohol ; He also confirmed he had children with women he was not married to, but said information about the scandals attributed to him was misinterpreted.

Misuzulu called the dispute over the appointment of his father’s successor a case of “internal family terrorism” and also said that the royal family is “still deeply, deeply divided” on the issue.

Last March, on the first anniversary of King Zwelithini’s death, he was commemorated by the various rival factions of the family in separate ceremonies held at different residences. Meanwhile there were also rumors that Queen Mantfombi had been poisoned, perhaps on the orders of Mbonisi and Princess Thembi Ndlovu, another critic of Misuzulu, who denied any involvement at a press conference. In late July, a judge dismissed the Mbonisi case, allowing Misuzulu’s coronation ceremony, scheduled for tomorrow.

– Also read: The last absolute monarchy in Africa