South Africa

ROYAL CONFLICT ANALYSIS

IFP and ANC exchange warnings: Do not stir up resentment over Zulu monarchy dispute

From left: Blessed Gwala, IFP chief whip in the KZN legislature. (Photo: Supplied) | Prince Misuzulu Zulu. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Sandile Ndlovu) | KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

A succession dispute over the Zulu monarchy has become the main bone of contention between the African National Congress and its political foe, the Inkatha Freedom Party, in the build-up to the 2024 general elections.

The Zulu royal family has been in turmoil since the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini on 12 March 2021. In his will, Zwelithini nominated his wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, as regent. However, she died three weeks later.

In Queen Mantfombi’s will — which was read after her funeral — she nominated her son Misuzulu to take over the reins as the new king. Some members of the Zulu royal family accepted the nomination while others opposed it. 

The matter is now in the hands of the Pietermaritzburg High Court where the late king’s first wife, Queen Sibongile Winifred Zulu, her two daughters and Prince Mbonisi Zulu, Zwelithini’s brother, are disputing his will and the distribution of the estate. They are also disputing the nomination of Misizulu and are asking the court to delay his coronation until all the disputes have been settled.

ifp anc zulu monarch
The late King Goodwill Zwelithini. (Picture: Thuli Dlamini)

Prince Misuzulu and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the traditional prime minister of the Zulu kingdom, are cited as respondents in all these matters.

In January this year, KZN Deputy Judge President Isaac Madondo, who is presiding over the case, reserved judgment.

Senior advocate and legal commentator Mpumelelo Zikalala said the royal dispute is likely to take longer to resolve as whoever loses the case will probably appeal and the matter could go up to the Constitutional Court.

After the death of King Zwelithini, the KZN government decided to stop supporting the Zulu monarch, at least until the issue of a successor to the throne had been decided and agreed upon.

Ahead of the November 2021 local government elections, the IFP used the face of Prince Misuzulu on one of its election posters. However, the party quickly withdrew it after complaints from its political rivals.

The ANC is irked by the role played by IFP founder Prince Buthelezi in his capacity as the Zulu nation’s prime minister. The party accuses Buthelezi of exploiting his position to boost the IFP, especially during the recent municipal elections where the party took many rural councils from the ANC.

ifp anc zulu monarch
Zulu warriors march on the streets of Pietermaritzburg on 11 January 2022 to show their support to King Misuzulu kaZwelithini Zulu during a court case involving the leadership of the nation. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

Speaking during the ANC KZN lekgotla held in Durban at the weekend, KZN ANC chairperson and provincial premier Sihle Zikalala castigated both Buthelezi and the IFP, accusing them of using “tribal politics” to win support.

“We have seen the resurgence of the IFP from its political deathbed, exploiting the Zulu national kingship. The IFP has reversed some of the revolutionary gains we have made in creating a province that is free from the yolk of tribalism by using this demon as a political tool to win the hearts and the minds of the people,” Zikalala said.

He said the IFP and Buthelezi were projecting themselves as the champions of the Zulu kingdom while projecting the ANC as a traitor to the Zulu people.

The IFP, which has thrown its weight behind Prince Misuzulu and is roaring for his coronation as the new Zulu king, has hit back, saying the ANC attack is nothing but the “last kicks of a dying horse”.

Blessed Gwala, IFP chief whip in the KZN legislature, said the ANC must do a deep introspection on why it is losing support in KZN, instead of throwing tantrums.

“We believe that the premier is bitter because the ANC lost many municipalities to the IFP during the 2021 local government elections, right under his nose as ANC provincial chairperson. Possibly he fears the writing is on the wall and that he might not be re-elected during the next ANC conference. 

“It is very unfortunate that Premier Sihle Zikalala is spreading lies to the people of KwaZulu-Natal about the IFP. He should instead be telling the people that his party has failed and that it is time for the ANC to pack their bags and leave, before they destroy KwaZulu-Natal completely,” Gwala said. 

ifp anc zulu monarch
Zulu royals from the KwaMinya palace in Nongoma at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 12 January 2022. (From left) Princess Nokwethemba, Princess Buyie, Princess Buyisiwe Zulu, Queen Ndwandwe Zulu, Princess Sizakele Zulu, Queen Nsele Zulu, and Princess Angel Zulu, sitting down. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

Independent elections analyst Wayne Sussman said there is no doubt that the IFP has milked Prince Buthelezi’s position as the premier of the Zulu nation and his close proximity to the royal family as an electioneering tool.

“This worked very well, especially in rural areas where people still hold the Zulu kingdom in high regard, but less so in urban areas like eThekwini municipality and Msunduzi local municipality,” Sussman said, adding that the IFP gained a spectacular victory in rural KZN, leaving the rival ANC in shock.

“Since the exit of Jacob Zuma from the political scene, we have seen the IFP rebound in many parts of KZN, especially in the northern areas. I think in the rural areas there is an ongoing major contest between these two parties. There is no doubt that the Zulu royal succession issue will dominate politics in KwaZulu-Natal and could be a big electioneering issue ahead of the 2024 general elections. 

“This will be more so if the succession to the Zulu monarch is not resolved, and less so if it is resolved before then,” Sussman said.

Prof Bheki Mngomezulu of the University of the Western Cape agreed. He said both the IFP and the ANC are playing a dangerous game when they involve the Zulu monarch and Zulu royal family as pawns in their struggle for supremacy.

ifp anc zulu monarch
Queen Nozizwe laMakhubo Zulu, the wife of King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini Zulu, at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 12 January 2022. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

“It is unfortunate that the current brawl between the ANC and the IFP should involve the Zulu royal family because this causes divisions and frictions within the Zulu nation. 

“The role of the Zulu monarch should be above board because it represents all the Zulu nation… people from different political persuasions. The monarch should not be seen as alienating other members of the Zulu nation by siding with one political party against another.

“Politicians must steer clear of the Zulu monarch and tribal politics because we come from a province with a difficult past, where violence was the order of the day and the IFP was seen as a pro-Zulu party and the ANC was seen as a pro-Xhosa party. 

“We cannot allow ourselves to return to that era. If political leaders fail to handle this matter delicately, we could easily return to that difficult time in our history,” Mngomezulu said. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 2

  • In a democratic republic, this entire “royal” discussion is a big pile of bull droppings. While I fully support the right of the Zulu people to have a king (sic), I wholly object to having to pay for it. You want a king? You pay for it yourselves. It should be as simple as that, because these comic puppets are not my kings. I did not vote for them.

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted