Newly elected Zulu King Misuzulu Zulu Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)
Newly elected Zulu King Misuzulu Zulu Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

5 reasons why the Zulu royal succession will not be simple to resolve

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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Durban – It has been just over a month since 47-year-old King Misuzulu KaZwelithini was named in the will of his late mother, Zulu Queen Regent Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, to take over the Zulu monarchy that was left vacant following the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini on March 12 this year.

Dlamini-Zulu was named queen regent in the will of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini before handing over the throne to King Misuzulu. Although it was previously thought that settling the issue of succession through a will would avoid a lengthy succession battle, it now looks like this will not be the case as there are hurdles making the succession far from simple.

Here are five reasons why the succession will not be simple to resolve

1. Court battles that could take years

Court battles can drag on for years. One such succession battle that went to the courts and could be used as a benchmark is that of the Shembe church. The court case started in 2010, and 11 years later it is with the Constitutional Court with no end in sight. In the case of the Zulu throne, King Goodwill Zwelithini’s first wife, Sibongile Dlamini-Zulu (not related to Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu) and her two daughters, Princess Ntandoyenkosi and Princess Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma, have already launched a court battle to challenge the validity of the late king’s will.

However, even if the court case goes ahead as planned, King Misuzulu would sit on the throne until the lengthy court battle is finalised, giving him a chance to slowly entrench himself while his opponents are fighting for the throne from the sidelines.

2. New factions claiming the throne pop up almost every month

At first, it was assumed that the battle for the throne was going to be between the house of Queen Sibongile Dlamini-Zulu of Kwakhethomthandayo and Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu of KwaKhangelamankengane – both in Nongoma. As the king’s first wife, Queen Sibongile’s first-born son, Prince Lethukuthula Zulu, was expected to contest for the throne, but then he was killed in Joburg late last year. It is said he has a young son, and that the house of Kwakhethomthandayo want that son to be groomed to take over and, for now, Queen Sibongile to act as queen regent.

Last month, the battle took another turn when Prince Simakade, the first-born son of King Goodwill Zwelithini, born out of wedlock, entered the fray. Just last week, another faction led by Princess Nomkhubulwane entered the fray, punting 19-year-old Prince Mhlengi as the next king, thus further complicating the fight for the throne.

3. New democratic government’s hands are tied

When King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon died in 1968, the Zulu throne was left vacant and there was jostling for the position. However, the apartheid government, working with the KwaZulu government, quickly resolved the matter and in 1971 King Goodwill Zwelithini was installed.

The fight never went to court.

This time there are courts involved and by all indications the matter will end up in the Constitutional Court as, among other issues, there is a debate over the Traditional Leadership Act that governs the issue of succession in traditional leadership. The court may have to decide if succession was correctly applied in giving the throne to King Misuzulu through his mother.

4. Covid-19 restrictions delaying various processes

The Covid-19 restrictions mean that courts and government processes will be delayed. So even if the courts and eventually the provincial government were requested by parties involved in the matter to speed up all processes, that would not happen as soon as desired because of Covid-19 restrictions that affect the functioning of many state bodies.

5. All senior princes from respective houses feel they have a right to the throne

When King Sobhuza II of Eswatini agreed in the early 70s that his daughter, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, could marry the then young King Goodwill Zwelithini, he insisted that she should become the senior wife and give birth to the next king of the Zulu nation. That demand was based on an old Nguni tradition that stipulates that should a king have a wife from another royal family, she must become a senior wife even if she was the last to marry the king.

That has caused ructions in the Zulu royal court as since 1816 when King Shaka formed the Zulu nation, that tradition was thrown out as his mother, Queen Nandi Mhlongo from Eshowe, was not married to his father, King Senzangakhona, and she was a commoner. Shaka took the throne by force and set a precedent.

As things stand now, some in the royal family are first-borns in their respective houses and also want to take over. Among them is Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu, King Goodwill Zwelithini first-born son with Queen Buhle Mathe, who by birth is a commoner.


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