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Zulu King Misuzulu denies tensions with Buthelezi, but signs of strain are emerging

Zulu King Misuzulu denies tensions with Buthelezi, but signs of strain are emerging
From left: Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Zulu royal watchers say this week’s announcement of the Ingonyama Trust board by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, marks the formal end of the relationship between Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been the prime minister of the Zulu nation for many decades and played a critical role after the March 2021 death of the then Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. He went out of his way to ensure that – despite the dispute within the Zulu royal family about who would be the next monarch – King Misuzulu kaZwelithini emerged as king.

Read more in Daily Maverick: King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s first challenge will be to unite his fractured royal family and end gender-based violence

Some members of the Zulu royal family are still not happy about the elevation of Misuzulu and have headed to court to challenge his ascendancy. The matter will be ventilated in several cases brought by royal family members.

Since the king’s coronation in October 2022, King Misuzulu and Prince Buthelezi have had several disputes. But it is the composition of the Ingonyama Trust Board that might have damaged their relationship beyond repair.

The Ingonyama Trust is a corporate entity established to administer the land traditionally owned by the Zulu people, represented by their king, for the benefit, material welfare and social wellbeing of the Zulu nation, which continues to occupy the land as it historically has done.

The Trust presides over about 29.67% of the land in KwaZulu-Natal, which is equivalent to 28,000 square kilometres.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Minister appoints new Ingonyama Trust board amid reported rifts within Zulu monarchy

The new nine-member board will serve a four-year term. The members are: Inkosi Thanduyise Mzimela as chairperson; advocate Linda Zama as vice-chairperson; Inkosi Mabudu Israel Tembe; Dr Thandi Dlamini; Nomusa Zulu; Dandy Matamela; Inkosi Phallang Bokang Molefe; Inkosi Sibonelo Mkhize and land rights activist Lisa Del Grande.

King Misuzulu endorsed the new board, but Buthelezi rejected it, particularly the appointment of Mzimela as chairperson to replace Judge Jerome Ngwenya, who had held the position for many years and is said to be very close to Buthelezi.

Welcoming the appointment of the board, the Zulu king said, “I assure amakhosi and the Zulu nation as a whole that their land is not lost and the board will not sell it.’’

He said the board had been carefully chosen and was made up of individuals who would ensure that the land remained in the hands of the Zulu nation.

The king disputed reports that the relationship between him and Buthelezi had soured.

“I would like to unequivocally state that rumours that there is bad blood between myself in my capacity as monarch of the Zulu nation and our traditional prime minister, umntwana wakwaPhindangene (Prince Buthelezi), are blatant attempts by opportunists who wish to drive a wedge between our Zulu nation and the royal family.”

Urgent meeting

However, early this week, Buthelezi called an urgent meeting of Amakhosi and izinduna to be held in Empangeni on Friday.

Buthelezi said he was calling the meeting in his capacity as the prime minister of the Zulu nation, saying discussions would include the new Ingonyama Trust board and the land under which it falls.

On Thursday, Buthelezi said some traditional leaders had complained that certain people in government and the traditional leadership were trying to stop them from attending the meeting.

Buthelezi accused the chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Inkosi Sifiso Shinga, of being responsible for intimidating traditional leaders into not attending his meeting.

He also accused the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs of sending text messages to traditional leaders with a similar objective.

However, the department has rejected Buthelezi’s allegations, while Inkosi Shinga said he wasn’t stopping any traditional leaders from attending the meeting.

‘All above board’

Meanwhile, Minister Thoko Didiza’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, said there were no political considerations during the selection and appointment of the board.

“The board consists of the Ingonyama [King Misizulu] or his nominee, who is the chairperson of the board, and four members appointed by the minister after consultation with the Ingonyama, the premier and the chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders in the province and the other four members appointed by the minister with due regard to regional interests, in consultation with the premier, who shall consult the Ingonyama and the chairperson of the House of Traditional Leadership in KwaZulu-Natal,” Ngcobo said in a statement.

The Ingonyama Trust has come under fire from land and human rights activists who say too much power is given to the Zulu king and traditional leaders who are using the land for their personal benefit. Some also say the trust discriminates against women in that they are denied access to and ownership of land.

The traditional leadership is becoming a hot campaign issue in KwaZulu-Natal, especially as the 2024 general elections draw closer.

Political analysts say the role played by Buthelezi in the days and weeks after the death of King Zwelithini worked in favour of the IFP – of which Buthelezi is a founding leader – in the November 2021 local government elections, in which the IFP did very well and was able to win many municipalities, especially in northern KZN.

Prof Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst based at the University of the Western Cape, said the IFP and the ANC are jostling to charm the king and win the electoral support of his subjects.

“Since the dawn of democracy, there has been wrestling between the ANC and the IFP for the control of the Zulu monarch. This is underpinned by the belief that if the Zulu king warms to any of the two parties, his subjects would vote for that party,” Mngomezulu said.

Mpumelelo Zikalala, a Durban-based legal expert, said the Ingonyama Trust board was here to stay and its selection and appointment could not be legally challenged with any hope of success.

“We must remember that it is the prerogative of the minister to appoint the board after consulting with all the stakeholders. In this case, she has appointed people with technical and legal skills… She has appointed amakhosi to deal with issues of traditional leadership and she has consulted with the king to appoint people to represent the king.

“So, in terms of the composition of the board, the minister has done her work and anyone who challenges her and goes to court to say the appointment was wrong, will have to prove their case in court, which is something that will not be easy,’’ said Zikalala, adding that no one has expressed a desire to challenge the minister on the appointment of the board.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday this week, King Misuzulu complained that the various cases lodged against him and his coronation are preventing him from fully performing his duties as the Zulu monarch. DM

Timeline of a royal succession

1968

Zulu King Cyprian Bhekuzulu dies of natural causes and Prince Mcwayizeni is appointed as the Zulu regent. Drama in the royal house comes to the fore after the discovery of a plot to poison Prince Goodwill Zwelithini – to prevent him from ascending to the throne – and he is spirited away to live with his relatives in rural Mpumalanga (then Northern Transvaal).

September 1969

Zulu prince and main contender to the throne, Goodwill Zwelithini, marries Sibongile Winifred in community of property.

December 1970

Prince Zwelithini is crowned as the new king of the Zulus.

March 2021

King Zwelithini dies in a Durban hospital from Covid and diabetes complications.

April 2021

The official mourning for the Zulu king ends and his will is read at a meeting attended by members of the royal family. In the will, Zwelithini nominates his wife as regent of the Zulus.

29 April 2021

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu is buried in a private ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal after dying unexpectedly.

May 2021:

Queen Mantfombi’s will is read by royal family lawyers. In it, she names her son as the successor to the Zulu monarch. This is accepted by some members of the Zulu royal family, while others reject it out of hand.

2 May 2021

Queen Sibongile Dlamini applies for an urgent court interdict seeking to set aside the implementation of the late king’s will.

June 2021

Two of the late king’s daughters, princesses Ntombizosuthu and Ntandokayise, launch a separate court application challenging the validity of their father’s will and interdicting the process of installing the new king.

2 December 2021

Prince Mboniso Zulu, the late king’s half-brother, launches an urgent court interdict to prevent the process leading to the coronation of Prince Misuzulu as the new Zulu king.

11/12 January 2022

The Pietermaritzburg High Court hears arguments and counter-arguments on various aspects of the Zulu royal family disputes. Judgment on the matters is reserved.

13 August 2022

Prince Smakade is crowned by a faction of the Zulu royal family at the Enyokeni Royal House. Legal and Zulu tradition experts dispute the legality of his “coronation”.

20 August 2022

Prince Misuzulu is crowned the Zulu king at Khangelamankengana Royal House.

Who is King Misuzulu kaZwelithini?

  • Born on 23 September 1974 in Kwahlabisa to King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and Queen Mantombi Dlamini-Zulu, the daughter of the late Eswatini King Sobhuza II.
  • Educated privately at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg.
  • Studied at Jacksonville University in the US, where he lived for several years.
  • Married to two wives, with three sons. DM
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