If one calls the display of culture at the KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in South Africa’s Zulu nation a celebration of victory, it is not out of place.
Thousands of South Africans and guests from beyond had gathered to watch the coronation of 47 year old Misuzulu ka Zwelithini in the rural part of the KwaZulu-Natal province of Zulu kingdom. After his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, passed away from COVID-19, a year and a half ago, a family feud ensued as to who would wear the crown. Various royal family factions continued to champion their preferred candidates through several legal challenges.
The late King Zwelithini during his time, had six wives but named his third wife Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu as regent – a sort of caretaker role pending the appointment of a successor, a will that was highly disputed. Queen Mantfombi reportedly held the highest status among the king’s wives, because she came from royalty – her father was the late King Sobhuza II and her brother was King Mswati III of Eswatini.Before her death just one month after holding the tittle, Mantfombi nominated her son, MisuZulu kaZwelithini, as the successor to the throne. However, this nomination threw the royal succession into turmoil, as some of Zwelithini’s other children laid claim to the throne, arguing that the late king’s will was forged.
Last Thursday, the king’s brothers were said to have distanced themselves from MisuZulu, saying that the royal house wanted Prince Buzabazi kaZwelithini to ascend the throne. Buzabazi’s mother is the late king’s fourth wife, Queen Buhle KaMathe. The brothers claimed the processes that were followed to nominate MisuZulu were irregular and did not receive the blessing from the royal house.
Again, the late King Goodwill Zwelithini’s daughters, princesses Ntandoyenkosi Zulu and Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma also questioned whether the late king’s will give Queen Mantfombi the right to nominate a successor upon her death. The duo sought to bar President Cyril Ramaphosa from providing Misuzulu with a certificate certifying MisuZulu as king of the amaZulu.
Before his death in March, after his age long reign which began in 1968, the late King Zwelithini reportedly had 28 children with his different wives, and according to the contenders, Queen Mantfombi was not his first wife as to have the audacity to determine who will be king. Apart from his family members, some other royals had argued that MisuZulu is unfit for the throne, as they cited his immature attributes.
Zulu Kingdom At A Glance
Historically, the Zulu kingdom is popularly known for its age long feat in defeating British troops during the 1879 battle of Isandlwana. Zulus are also said to be the largest ethnic group among the country’s over 60 million population. The king’s traditional authority is recognized in KwaZulu-Natal, where he is said to reign.The king also holds an important role in bridging the gap between traditional customs and modern democracy in South Africa.
Among the great benefits of the king are huge assets and the vast amounts of land traditionally owned by the Zulu people and now held in a trust. Reports have it that the trust controls nearly 30% of the land in KwaZulu-Natal province, or around 28,000 square kilometers (10,810 square miles). And the king is said to be the sole trustee.
The succession battle for its throne have always been fierce and at times reportedly bloody. The legendary King Shaka ka Senzangakhona is said to have killed his brother in 1816 in order to take the throne, but got assassinated himself in a plot masterminded by his nephew years later. Little wonder same is playing out now.
A lot of controversies surrounded his coronation as king of Zulu but MisuZulu remained defiant as he carried on with the preparations for ascending the throne.
Earlier last week, MisuZulu went on a lion hunt, a requirement for ascending the throne. He was to wear the lion skin for his coronation.By hunting and killing a lion, MisuZulu presented himself as a strong and worthy king to reign over the Zulu kingdom.He did this in company of his entourage before entering the sacred kraal where he was bided to get crowned.
The traditional rites for the coronation included appearances of huge number of decorated Amabuthos (Zulu warriors) holding spears and shields of animal skin, marching into the palace ground. Thousands of people surrounded the palace, including men and women adorned with cultural attires peculiar to the Zulus, singing in their dialects and dancing in jubilation, all awaiting the new king who had entered into the sacred cattle kraal where he took part in a secret rite designed to present him to his ancestors.
Celebrating The New King
Upon completion of the rites, King MisuZulu was presented to his people as their new king. This was followed by thunderous applause and display of Zulu culture, greatly in music and dance.The King will reportedly receive grand welcome from his family and the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has also recognized him as heir to the throne.
The King himself also released a statement promising to unite the Zulus and also called for peace and unity among his family members.