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Legal wrangle over Zulu king’s will

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, 65, has died. Picture: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, 65, has died. Picture: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP

Published May 3, 2021

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DURBAN - THE first wife of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu is fighting for a 50% share of the multimillion-rand royal estate, claiming to be entitled to it by their civil marriage, which she says was in community of property.

Queen Sibongile Dlamini has applied for an urgent court interdict seeking to set aside the implementation of the king’s will, which called for the appointment of the recently deceased Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini as the regent.

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Her legal fight appeared to have gained momentum, with a parallel urgent court interdict being sought by her two daughters, who are crying alleged forgery in respect of the will, citing the king’s signature and what they claim is an altered identity number of Prince Mbonisi Zulu.

The Mercury has seen the papers prepared by Queen Sibongile’s lawyers, but it’s unclear whether they have been filed in court yet.

However, Prince Thulani Zulu, a Royal Household spokesperson, told The Mercury he had “heard that summons has (sic) been issued to some members of the royal family”.

A statement issued by a communications company, allegedly “on behalf of the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace (the residential home of the aggrieved Queen Sibongile)” said: “We wish to confirm that there are two pending matters before the courts in relation to the estate of his majesty.”

“The first matter relates to the declarator of the late monarch’s civil union vs the subsequent ‘customary’ unions, in order to deal with matters of inheritance and succession to the throne. The second matter relates to the validity of His Majesty’s final will and testament, and has been filed by some of his daughters. However, based on certain concerns in regards to the handling and signature of the document, it became necessary to place the document’s validity for determination before the courts,” read the statement.

In papers directed to the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Princess Ntombizosuthu and Princess Ntandoyenkosi argue that a handwriting expert they had appointed had confirmed the signatures did not correspond with that of their father’s.

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The aggrieved queen says that while her daughters are questioning the validity of the will, her legal action seeks to put the brakes on the implementation of the will while she seeks to assert her rights as the king’s wife in terms of civil law, and not customary law.

Queen Sibongile argues that she is entitled to the inheritance in terms of their 1969 civil marriage, which, according to court papers, the five other wives could not have also entered into.

Should the matter not be heard – and a declaration on the issue of assets not be granted – on an urgent basis, the queen argues her share of the inheritance may be at risk.

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The affidavits appear to have been filed before the death of the regent queen since they name her as being among the 20 respondents.

Others include KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and President Cyril Ramaphosa in their capacity as the custodians of the traditional leadership legislation, a private company as the executor of the estates, the five queens and several princes.

According to court papers, the queen seeks an order to direct the executor of the estate to disregard the will since, she says, its testament is not in keeping with the provisions of the terms of her civil marriage in terms of profit and loss.

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She wants the court to interdict family members, including other wives and princes and princesses, from declaring, endorsing, proclaiming or appointing the late regent or any of the living queens as interim or permanent successor to the throne “pending the final determination of the reliefs sought in this application”.

She seeks to restrain Zikalala and Ramaphosa from enforcing and putting into effect any decisions that may have already been taken to appoint or recommend the appointment of any queen as a regent or successor to the throne by giving effect to the will pending the finalisation of her application.

She argues that the matter should be heard on an urgent basis, since she had realised from the activities of some members of the family that there had been a rush to ostracise her from the royalties of the estate.

For instance, she says, the now late regent queen had been hastily undertaken through a cleansing ceremony, which was in preparation for her to take the helm.

“The entire process of her appointment, her cleansing and the precise reasons therefore have been opaque to me. By all accounts, decisions are made where I have no knowledge of how these decisions were made and I was not part of the decision-making process.

“My concern is that I am the late Isilo’s wife who was married by civil marriage. While we did not enter into a customary marriage I am now set to be subjected to consequences of a marriage regime I did not choose or enter. I therefore bring this application to assert my rights as the (late king’s) wife.”

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the traditional prime minister to the Zulu Kingdom and the monarch, was due to issue a statement last night after having taken part in high-level family talks.

It remained to be confirmed if the funeral ceremony for the late regent would be accorded the status of a state funeral after Zikalala submitted a request for this to Ramaphosa.

Zikalala said a delegation of the provincial government leadership would descend on the KwaKhethomthandayo palace this morning to pay their last respects.

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