Misuzulu kaZwelithini enters the kraal to secure the Zulu king throne
There are signs that the eleventh-hour court bids to block Misuzulu kaZwelithini being crowned as the new monarch of the amaZulu were the last kicks of a dying horse.
King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s claim to the Zulu throne was contested up to the moment he entered the kraal at 11.48am on Saturday, 20 August 2022, at Khangelamankengane Royal Palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal.
Entering the kraal is one of the final ceremonies in the crowning of the new king. The last one will be when President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has already recognised King Misuzulu as the rightful heir, officially hands over the crown certificate of recognition at the ceremony expected to be held at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on a yet-to-be-decided date.
The crowning was attended by thousands of amabutho (warriors), izintombi (maidens) and ordinary folk, as well as by diplomats, royalty, government officials and other dignitaries from around the world.
Celebrities as well as social and political leaders were there too, including Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, ministers Senzo Mchunu and Lindiwe Zulu, former health minister Zweli Mkhize, Advocate Dali Mpofu, Dudu Myeni and Nompumelelo Ntuli (Jacob Zuma’s estranged wife).
Siboniso Duma, the newly elected ANC KZN provincial chairperson, made a brief speech, welcoming King Misuzulu to the throne.
The presence of thousands of people to see King Misuzulu ascend to the throne of one of Africa’s biggest and most colourful kingdoms entrenched him as the legitimate Zulu king.
Mpumelelo Zikalala, a legal expert based in Durban, said Zulu royal family members hoping to contest the coronation will have more than an uphill battle to wage — they will also have to contend with the goodwill of the majority of the Zulu people who support him.
The northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Nongoma was abuzz with activity on Saturday morning. A group of Zulu maidens sang and danced on the main road from the town centre, near the St Benedictine Hospital. They were members of the Amazolo Amatshitshi and Izinyosi maidens, who were waiting for transport to take them to the royal palace, where the coronation and attendant festivities were due to take place.
On the eve of the coronation, Zulu royal family members opposed to the ascendancy of Misuzulu announced the nomination of Prince Buzabazi, a little-known Zulu prince and son of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, as their preferred heir to the throne.
Also on Friday, 19 August, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed an urgent application by Princess Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma and Princess Ntandoyenkosi Zulu to halt the coronation from taking place. The court said their application was not urgent and they could have used the normal court processes to launch whatever challenge they had.
A week earlier, another faction supported Prince Simakade as he entered the kraal at Enyokeni Royal Palace, proclaiming himself as the new Zulu king. The event was a damp squib compared with Saturday’s crowning ceremony.
In his speech, King Misuzulu decried the deep divisions besetting the Zulu royal family. He thanked Queen Zola Mafu-Zulu, the late King Zwelithini’s sixth wife from Swaziland, as the only queen mother to attend the ceremony.
The new king extended an olive branch to members of his family who were not on his side, saying the conflict should come to an end and the family must unite.
In his first speech after completing all the Zulu royal rituals for a new king, including cleansing himself with intelezi, a traditional medicine to make him strong and repel his enemies, the new King stared down his brothers who were fighting him for the throne.
“I am saying to amabutho [warriors] that they know who their king is … Those in the family who were disputing my elevation to the throne should be listened to, but their message should be ignored.
“We are in and out of court because of a few people but we respect the [late] king [Goodwill Zwelithini] even when he’s not here … I asked Prince Buthelezi what are the chances of the king’s certificate awarded by the President to be withdrawn and someone else be awarded that certificate. Prince Buthelezi said there is no chance that this certificate can be withdrawn,” King Misuzulu said, to the wild roar of the crowd, who chanted “Bayede. Wena WeNdlovu”.
“We will continue with the good work that he was doing,” he said.
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The king’s to-do list
The new King faces a number of challenges. According to Zakhele Ndlovu, a senior political science lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, King Misuzulu will have to assert his authority as the new king.
“He will also have to navigate many treacherous roads, with many minefields. First of all, we cannot separate the Zulu monarch from politics. The Zulu king has tremendous influence and political players are wont to get this influence on their sides.
“The fact that King Misuzulu was placed on the throne with the acumen and bravery of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a political figure who is also using his position as the prime minister of the Zulu nation, is very significant … This influence seemed to go to the Inkatha Freedom Party [of which Buthelezi was founding leader],” Ndlovu said, adding that the IFP used Misuzulu’s face to campaign during the 2021 local government elections but was forced to remove the images after a huge outcry.
“The ANC in KZN is not happy with that and will try to get King Misuzulu to be on their side. It will be interesting how this plays out.”
Ndlovu said the new king will now have to come out of the shadow of Buthelezi, who was critical in helping him ascend the throne.
King Misuzulu also faces the conundrum of the Ingonyama Trust and its land. His father, Goodwill Zwelithini, was the sole trustee. Entrusting such a huge tract of land to an entity that has proven to be unaccountable and makes the millions of people who live on the land subservient to the wishes of the trust and amakhosi and izinduna in their areas.
A date for the coronation by the government — to be presided over by Ramaphosa — has yet to be set.
King Misuzulu was considered heir apparent because he is the first-born son of the late king and Swazi Princess Mantfombi Dlamini, the sister of King Mswati III, head of the Swazi royal family. She died less than a month after King Zwelithini, who died in March last year.
Last year, some people expressed shock and dismay when King Misuzulu, who grew up abroad, struggled to read a speech in isiZulu. It appears that he has since been tutored as his grasp of the language was noticeably improved during his coronation speech.
‘Cool as a king’
At the ceremony on Saturday, Jamal Mtshali, a financial analyst and institutional investor based in New York, was among those in attendance.
“As soon as I heard that there was to be a coronation of the Zulu king in my lifetime, I was in a state of trepidation. I knew that there were challenges and disputes within the Zulu royal family and I doubted that the coronation would take place.
“However, I felt it was such an event that, had I [chosen not to attend], I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. So, I stopped everything I was doing and took the plane to South Africa. I just couldn’t miss this historic event in our history as Zulu people,” he said, with a wry smile.
Mtshali, who was born in the US, is the son of South African IT specialist and academic, Professor Progress Mtshali. His father has returned to South Africa and is acting vice-chancellor at Durban University of Technology.
“When I was growing up, my father had a picture of King Cetshwayo [king of the Zulus from 1872 to 1879] in his home workplace, where he did most of his computer coding. It was a beautiful portrait. When I asked my father why he hadn’t sold that portrait, he said: ‘You cannot sell your culture, your values.’ That was very poignant,” said Mtshali.
Mtshali said the coronation was breathtaking: “I was not disappointed. To me, it was our culture breathing, a revival of a tradition. In a way, it was a fitting tribute to the late King Zwelithini, who revived many customs and ceremonies of the Zulu nation. The new King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s speech was dignified and diplomatic. He was cool as a king.”
Ceremony for royal watchers
Also in the palace for the coronation were members of the Ndebele royal family, who have a strong connection to the amaZulu as their founder, King Mzilikazi, was one of King Shaka’s fearless generals. After a fallout with Shaka, Mzilikazi fled with his unit to modern-day Limpopo province and southern Zimbabwe to begin his own conquest and establish his own kingdom.
Members of the Ndebele royal family said the coronation gives them hope that they, too, will be able to crown their own king and revive the kingdom started by Mzilikazi.
One of them said the Ndebele people were persecuted and killed in Zimbabwe and told to “go back home to South Africa”, but when they come to South Africa xenophobic people tell them to go back to Zimbabwe.
Also at the ceremony was Kenyan Dr FM Sawoni, who is now based in East London. He is the head of the Federation of Royal Monarchs, an NGO that aims to revive monarchs throughout Africa.
“We are interested in developing monarchies and developing rural areas, working with kings and queens by ensuring that the land is well appropriated and effectively utilised.
“The coronation of the Zulu king gives us hope that we can achieve these goals. The culture and traditions of our people are preserved by the monarchs. People without cultures and traditions are groundless and they fall for anything,” he said.
A group of Swazi women, in colourful traditional attire, gathered in one of the main halls. They said they had been sent by King Mswati to observe the coronation of his nephew. DM