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Feud between King Misuzulu and Buthelezi is ‘at a point of no return’

Feud between King Misuzulu and Buthelezi is ‘at a point of no return’
Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Zulu King Misuzulu KaZwelithini and his prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, released conflicting statements over the health and whereabouts of the king this weekend. Their relationship, according to one political analyst, is at a point of no return.

The relationship between Zulu King Misuzulu KaZwelithini and his supposed prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has broken down to irreparable levels after the release of conflicting statements over the health and whereabouts of the king.

The latest skirmish between the two most powerful figures in the Zulu succession debate began on Saturday afternoon when Buthelezi, in his capacity as amaZulu prime minister, released a press statement in which he said the king was being treated in a hospital in Eswatini after an apparent “poisoning”.

Buthelezi said the king was uncomfortable seeking medical attention in South Africa because other members of his family – including his father, King Goodwill Zwelithini, who died on 12 March 2021, and his mother, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, who died on 29 April 2021 – had died after receiving healthcare treatment in the country.

Buthelezi said the king felt unwell after one of his izinduna (traditional leaders) died mysteriously.

“While His Majesty recently appointed Prince Africa Zulu as head of communication and stakeholder relations in his office, I, as the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation have an obligation to inform the nation of this worrying situation,” Buthelezi said in his statement.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zulu King Misuzulu denies tensions with Buthelezi, but signs of strain are emerging

On Sunday, King Misuzulu’s side was quick to go public to “reassure people that the king was in perfect health and has not been hospitalised”.

“It appears that there is an orchestrated agenda and a desperate narrative to communicate defamatory and baseless claims of His Majesty’s ill health,” said Prince Africa Zulu, reading a statement from the king.

On Monday, a video clip was circulated in which Prince Africa Zulu is in conversation with the king, who dispelled any notion that he had been hospitalised in Eswatini.

Buthelezi failed to respond to Daily Maverick’s requests to clarify his Saturday statement, but the relationship between the Zulu king and his prime minister has clearly soured in recent weeks. 

Deep divisions

Buthelezi was critical to the succession battle that ensued shortly after the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2021. He used his considerable influence as the founder and longtime leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation to shoot down anyone in the Zulu royal family who challenged Misuzulu’s claim to the throne or anyone who questioned the then prince’s fitness to hold this powerful position.

It was largely through the endorsement of Buthelezi that in October 2022 Misuzulu was officially crowned in a ceremony at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Misuzulu kaZwelithini enters the kraal to secure the Zulu king throne

Since the coronation, King Misuzulu’s reign has been marred by one crisis after another. His relationship with Buthelezi has so soured that Buthelezi has refused to sign court affidavits to support Misuzulu’s elevation and he has been mobilising amakhosi (traditional chiefs), izinduna and amabutho (warriors) to defy Misuzulu and side with him.

One aspect of the dispute is over the composition of the Ingonyama Trust Board, where King Misuzulu has chosen Inkosi Thanduyise Mzimela to replace the long-serving Judge Jerome Ngwenya as the chairperson of the board, much to the chagrin of Buthelezi.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The battle between the Zulu King and his prime minister over the Ingonyama Trust is likely to divide KZN voters in 2024

Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst with the Xubera Institute, said the feud between the king and Buthelezi was at a point of no return.

“Unless King Misuzulu crawls down and apologises to Buthelezi, the two will not reconcile,” Dube said.

“Buthelezi fought so hard for King Misuzulu so that he can install him on the throne and use him to drive his own political agenda. Now that the king is not taking instruction from him, he wants him out. I’m afraid this might lead to deep divisions and cracking up of the elevated status of the Zulu kingdom.”

Political fallout

Speaking to the SABC, cultural expert Professor Sihawu Ngubane said the intrigues of the past few weeks had reignited the Zulu succession debate. It was not out of the ordinary for the royal succession debate to involve allegations, innuendos and other machinations, Prof Ngubane said.

“I think this is normal. Under normal circumstances, if there is a succession dispute, anything is possible. People would kill one another, people would be bewitching one another because of the fight and dispute and the conflict that arises on the succession. This is going to be something that is not new, because even in history, there have been incidences of this nature.”

The tiff between the Zulu king and Buthelezi was bound to get political at some point.

This happened on Monday morning – after a weekend in which Buthelezi and the king issued two conflicting statements.

Thulasizwe Buthelezi, mayor of the Zululand District Municipality and a prominent IFP leader, released a press statement with the municipality’s letterhead. He lambasted Prince Africa Zulu as being a “useful idiot of the ANC”.

“The emergence of Prince Africa Zulu as a self-styled spin doctor of the royal family spells disaster for the Zulu nation,” he said.

“Prince Africa’s persistent trend of undermining the authority and contradicting the public statements of the king’s Prime Minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, is a politically calculated ploy sponsored by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.”

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal responded in kind. It accused Mayor Buthelezi of being a reckless politician who used municipal resources to fight political battles and said he was “using the monarch and the Zulu Royal family as his instrument to achieve political currency”.

In a statement, ANC KZN provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said the mayor’s “statement reveals tendencies of someone who is preoccupied with the exercise of peddling lies and sowing division”.

Mtolo said the ANC in KZN had appointed Dr Zweli Mkhize to mediate between King Misuzulu and Buthelezi. The party was happy with Mkhize’s efforts as “he has been performing such responsibility with utmost respect”.

Mkhize was forced to resign from his job as health minister after the Digital Vibes scandal was uncovered. In December 2022, Mkhize, a former KZN premier, challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of ANC president, but lost. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    What a shambolic circus demonstrating that the Zulu monarchy is no more than an expensive ruse perpetuating systemic patriarchy. Irrelevant and narcisistic.

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