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Zulu royals fear Buthelezi is engineering plot to replace King Misuzulu

Zulu royals fear Buthelezi is engineering plot to replace King Misuzulu
From left: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. (Photo: GCIS)

Zulu royal family members believe there’s a plot to replace King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, who will have to defend his leadership in court in October. The suspicions follow a falling-out between the king and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who remains in hospital.

A number of Zulu royal family members believe that there is a new plot to oust Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini and replace him with a more pliable leader.

The royals say part of the campaign to unseat the Zulu king is taking place on social media and “plotters” are coalescing around Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (94), the prime minister of the Zulu nation who is at loggerheads with Misuzulu (48), particularly over the composition of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

Misuzulu’s road to the Zulu crown was littered with questions over his legitimacy and suitability for the position. Ever since his crowning in October 2022, his rule has been marred by crises.

There have also been deaths accompanied by allegations of foul play:

  • Late last year, Dumisani Blasius Khumalo, a member of the Usuthu Traditional Council, was fatally shot shortly after attending the reed dance in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Prince Mbongiseni Milton Muntukaphiwana Zulu, another trusted ally of Misuzulu, was also shot dead in Nongoma in November 2022, while his bodyguard sustained severe injuries.
  • A few weeks ago, a senior induna, Douglas Xaba, whom the king considered a close friend and family member, died. It was suspected that he was poisoned. After this death, the king sought medical assistance in Eswatini, where his uncle King Mswati III is the absolute monarch.

A public announcement by Buthelezi, in his capacity as the prime minister of the nation, that the king was sick after he had apparently been poisoned and was seeking medical attention in a foreign country, caused further strife between the two men, at a time when they differed on the composition of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Feud between King Misuzulu and Buthelezi is ‘at a point of no return’

The king told a gathering in Durban recently that he was not about to abdicate or be forced to step down.

Angiyindawo [I’m not going anywhere],” he said.

Buthelezi is in the intensive care unit in a KZN hospital and his office this weekend said he was showing signs of improvement. According to a report by EWN, Buthelezi’s family has barred the king from visiting.

New challenges to king’s rule

Misuzulu is fighting for his survival while opposition to his rule is growing. Matters surrounding his elevation to the Zulu throne are set to be heard in court soon.

Buthelezi used his significant power as the prime minister of the Zulu nation to ensure that Misuzulu, then a prince, was chosen to succeed King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who died in March 2021.

But he has steadfastly refused to sign court affidavits to support Misuzulu in the court challenge by Misuzulu’s half-brother, Prince Simakade, who is asking the Pretoria High Court to declare as invalid the royal meeting at which Misuzulu was chosen as the heir.

Simakade also wants the coronation of Misuzulu — presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on 29 October 2022 — to be declared invalid.

In May, the Pretoria High Court postponed the case to 16 October 2023. The delay in proceedings was requested by Misuzulu’s lawyers, who stated that the matter could not continue until Buthelezi had submitted his affidavits.

A Zulu prince who is close to Misuzulu said Buthelezi was engineering a rebellion when he called Zulu chiefs and the royal family to a meeting in Richards Bay without approval from the king.

The prince, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Buthelezi used the meeting to ask the chiefs and other guests to side with him, particularly on the issue of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

“One of the … leading figures in the plot to oust the king is Professor Musa Xulu. Initially, this professor was promoting the king in all his platforms. But when Buthelezi changed tune and became hostile to the king, even as he was pronouncing his loyalty to the king, we saw Xulu changing tune as well.

“He is now the biggest anti-king lobbyist. What these people are doing will not succeed because the king has been crowned and is here to stay,” the prince said.

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

Attempts for comment from Prince Africa Zulu, Misuzulu’s official spokesperson, were unsuccessful as calls to him were unanswered.

Liezl van der Merwe, the spokesperson for Buthelezi and a long-serving IFP MP in the National Assembly, declined to comment on the plot allegation.

But Professor Xulu told Daily Maverick that he had no reason to call for the ouster of the king. He said he had met or spoken with the Zulu king more than 10 times before and since his coronation.

“I am not a member of the royal house and I have no desire to see the fall of the king. But a few months ago I got a call from the king who was seeking advice from me about certain monarchy-related issues.

“I told the king the truth. I told him that the Zulu monarchy is a federal state and once you lose the chiefs, you lose members of the royal family, you lose amabutho [warriors] and you lose the ear of the prime minister of the Zulu nation [Buthelezi], you would be in trouble.

“I advised the king to initiate a dialogue between himself and Prince Buthelezi to iron out differences over [the] Ingonyama Trust Board and other issues. Now things have gone worse between the king and Prince Buthelezi and it is not easy to resolve this dispute because it has deteriorated this far. But I told the king about the danger of this,” he said.

Xulu reiterated that without Buthelezi’s supporting affidavits, the king would find it hard to prove his legitimacy in court.

“Watch this case and then we can talk,” he said, in reference to Simakade’s court challenge.

“I hear that some amakhosi [chiefs] are planning to lodge a court action to declare the selection and announcement of Ingonyama Trust Board as invalid,” he said.

This would be a direct challenge to Misuzulu’s rule. The king has publicly given the board his stamp of approval.

‘King still has a leg to stand on’

Zakhele Ndlovu, a political analyst at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said it was clear that opposition to Misuzulu began soon after the death of  Zwelithini.

“The refusal of Prince Buthelezi to sign the supporting affidavits is a huge blow to King Misuzulu and his legitimacy. I doubt if he would have emerged victorious without Buthelezi’s support. We hear that King Misuzulu banged the table, shouted and swore at the meeting with Buthelezi. If this is true it was a sign of disrespect.

“Having said that, I think King Misuzulu still has a leg to stand on and he can fight on to keep his crown, with or without the support of Buthelezi. But it would have worked in [his] favour had he allowed Buthelezi to be,” Ndlovu said.

Mpumelelo Zikalala, a legal analyst based in Durban, said he believed the feud between Buthelezi and the king was due mainly to their age difference and “styles of leadership”. He said he didn’t know whether the actions of those who are against the reign of Misuzulu could be characterised as a “plot”.

“Even if Buthelezi does not support the king in affidavits, this does not mean that those opposed to the king will win the case. They will have to have stronger arguments than those deposed by the princes and princesses who lost their cases against the king in court.

“I think the king is here to stay, because those who are opposed to him will have an uphill battle to try and convince the court that the processes which were followed in selecting were flawed and illegal,” Zikalala said.

‘Critical condition’

Meanwhile, the condition of Buthelezi, the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), remains a cause for concern for his family and allies.

Those who have had access to Buthelezi said he was in a critical condition, with others saying his condition had so deteriorated that he was no longer speaking.

A TimesLIVE report quoted his family saying he had to be readmitted to hospital for treatment after a complication during a procedure to manage back pain.

Buthelezi family spokesperson Dr Bhekuyise Ngqengelele Buthelezi told TimesLIVE: “As previously indicated, Prince Buthelezi underwent a procedure for back pain management, after which he was discharged from hospital. However, when his back pain did not subside sufficiently, he was readmitted for further treatment and recovery.

“He has since developed a complication and therefore remains in hospital at this stage to receive the necessary care. The duration of his hospital stay will depend on how fast his body can recover from the complication.”

Ramaphosa is among leaders who sent good wishes to Buthelezi. The President said Buthelezi’s family members were updating him on the elderly politician’s health. DM

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