Zulu battle for the throne heads to Supreme Court of Appeals

AmaZulu King Misuzulu Zulu handed over his certificate by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Nkosazane Dlamini Zuma, and Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

AmaZulu King Misuzulu Zulu handed over his certificate by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Nkosazane Dlamini Zuma, and Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 25, 2024


Judge Norman Davis has granted President Cyril Ramaphosa leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal a December 2023 ruling in which he ordered King Misuzulu KaZwelithini’s recognition to be declared unlawful and invalid.

Judge Davis has also granted leave to cross appeal his order to the late King Zwelithini’s brother, Prince Mbonisi, and his son, Prince Simakade, who also has his eyes on the crown.

King Misuzulu, too, was granted leave to appeal.

Judge Davis ruled in December that the decision to issue King Misuzulu with a certificate of recognition was unlawful and invalid after he found that Ramaphosa had failed to follow due process in terms of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act 3 of 2019, also known as the Leadership Act, when he failed to institute an investigating committee when a dispute over the Zulu throne arose between King Misuzulu and his brother, Prince Simakade.

However, he ruled that King Misuzulu was still on the crown as Acting KZN Judge President Isaac Madondo had already ruled on the matter in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

King Misuzulu ascended the throne in 2022 when his parents, King Goodwill Zwelithini, and his mother Queen Regent Mantfombi, died months apart in 2021.

A meeting in May 2021 was held by the Zulu Royal family, where the name of then Prince Misuzulu emerged as the successor. Prince Simakade did not attend.

Prince Simakade then approached the Pretoria High Court, seeking the court to declare Ramaphosa's decision to issue the certificate of recognition to King Misuzulu was irrational and asked it to set aside the decision.

Ramaphosa told the court that his decision was rational in issuing the certificate to King Misuzulu, thus paving the way for his October 2022 coronation.

He also told the court he had been guided by a February 2022 ruling by Judge Madondo which dismissed an application by Prince Mbonisi who wanted King Misuzulu's coronation to be stopped on the basis that King Misuzulu was wrongly nominated, citing a pending dispute which should first be resolved.

In December, Judge Davis slapped Ramaphosa with a cost order and ordered him to appoint an investigative committee in accordance with the Leadership Act.

Ramaphosa’s Appeal

Judge Davis said Ramaphosa and Thembi Nkadimeng, the minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), were seeking leave to appeal against the review and setting aside of the recognition decision on the ground that it should have been found that Judge President Madondo had already found there were no grounds satisfying the jurisdictional requirements of the Leadership Act, which would have precluded the President from taking that decision without the benefit of a report from an investigation committee.

King’s Appeal

King Misuzulu, on the other hand, wants the SCA to determine that Judge President Madondo has already finally determined the dispute relating to the President's recognition decision.

But Judge Davis has sounded a word of caution to the king, saying: “It is difficult to see how it could successfully be argued that Madondo could have finally decided something which up to that time, had not yet taken place.

“The recognition decision of the President was, at the time the other applications came before Madondo AJP, something which was yet to take place in the future. The outcome of the president's decision could therefore not yet validly have been predetermined.

“It is also clear, when one has regard to the contents of Madondo AJP's judgment, that he was alive to the fact that a review of the recognition decision, once taken, could still be pursued,” said Judge Davis.

He granted the appeal on fairness grounds after the King argued he would be prejudiced if Prince Mbonisi’s leave to cross appeal was granted.

Prince Mbonisi Appeal

Regarding Prince Mbonisi's cross appeal, which opposes Ramaphosa and King Misuzulu's, Prince Mbonisi argues that in setting aside King Misuzulu's recognition as invalid and unlawful, the court failed to "to fashion an appropriate order”.

“It is argued that the court should have set aside the identification decision and have remitted it back to the AmaZulu Royal Family,” said Judge Davis, adding that the identification process of the King and the constitution of the Royal Family remained in dispute.

Prince Simakade’s Appeal

Prince Simakade wants to cross-appeal in the SCA that the investigation committee “should expressly have been ordered to consider the identification issue ‘afresh”.

Judge Davis said leave to appeal was granted on all the applications, despite a lack of prospects on some of them.

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