Mixed reaction to appointment of Zulu traditional prime minister

King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

Published Jan 29, 2024


Experts have expressed differing views on the appointment of the new traditional prime minister of the amaZulu nation by King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

One expert said the decision to appoint Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the mayor of the Zululand District Municipality and a senior leader of the IFP, was welcomed and long overdue, while another said it was a blunder.

The role had been held by the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

King Misuzulu announced over the weekend that Buthelezi has been appointed as the new Zulu traditional prime minister. He will be deputised by the former chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza.

The announcement was made during the event to commemorate the Battle of Isandlwana in Nquthu, northern KZN, at the weekend. It comes as the legal battle for the throne is still raging between King Misuzulu and his relatives.

Last week Judge Norman Davis granted President Cyril Ramaphosa leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal a December 2023 ruling that found that the president’s recognition of King Misuzulu was unlawful and invalid.

In his ruling, Judge Davis found that Ramaphosa had failed to follow due process in terms of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, when he did not institute an investigating committee when a dispute over the Zulu throne arose between King Misuzulu and his brother, Prince Simakade.

In addition to granting leave to appeal, Judge Davis granted the cross-appeals by Prince Simakade and Prince Mbonisi who had argued that the identification of who should be king should be remitted back to the amaZulu royal family or to the investigative committee.

In a statement, the office of King Misuzulu welcomed the president’s decision to appeal.

A cultural expert from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Nomagugu Mazibuko, welcomed the appointment of the traditional prime minister.

“In my view, this is a good decision. What is even more important is that there is a deputy that has been appointed, and we await for the king to elaborate on the role and responsibilities as we know that Prince Buthelezi did a lot of work,” she said.

Mazibuko said the ongoing leadership dispute and the resultant court challenges had no bearing on the decision to appoint a new prime minister.

But cultural expert and political analyst Professor Musa Xulu said the appointment was a blunder, adding that even the venue where it was made was a mistake.

“Appointments like the ones announced are traditionally done at the close of the First Fruits Ceremony, not in a commemorative event. The appointment created a perception of political affiliation, something the king’s office should not be associated with.

“The appointment of Mr Buthelezi was indeed a big political blunder. In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s the IFP used to thrive on the basis of blood relations between the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the Zulu royal family.

“So the IFP projected itself as the holders of the intellectual property of the Zulu people,” said Xulu.

He said the problem with Thulasizwe Buthelezi is that he is too politically engaged, as an IFP central committee member and as an IFP deployee in Zululand District Municipality.

“He (the king) faces an uphill battle in the court cases. His entire future as king lies on the success of the appeal by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Bloemfontein (Supreme) Court of Appeal.”

He said according to Zulu culture and traditions, the announcement of the next prime minister should only have been made after all the death rituals relating to the late Prince Buthelezi had been concluded.

DA leader Francois Rodgers said the announcement was aimed at fostering stability within the royal household.

ANC provincial spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said the party would not comment as it has been busy with its campaigns and was not aware of the matter.

The Mercury