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Inheritance battle involving Zulu royal family members rages on in court

His Majesty King Misuzulu Zulu. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

His Majesty King Misuzulu Zulu. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 1, 2021


Pietermaritzburg - In the last batch of affidavits before the Pietermaritzburg High Court set to hear oral arguments on several matters pertaining to the dispute involving members of the Zulu royal family, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi has laid out why he insists Queen Sibongile Dlamini Zulu married the late King Goodwill Zwelithini the traditional way.

In his affidavit supporting King Misuzulu’s application to void the marriage, Buthelezi substantially said the December 27, 1969 civil rites marriage between the late king and the first queen was a mere formality as the proper marriage took place the traditional way when the Dlaminis of Nongoma accepted ilobolo.

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He said after accepting ilobolo, the Dlaminis took their daughter, who was then 20 years old, to the royal house in Nongoma where she was accepted. In accepting her, the royal family sprinkled her with bile (ukuchela ngenyongo) and that, according to Buthelezi, meant that Dlamini-Zulu was, albeit in a traditional Zulu way, married to the late king.

The court battle has three dimensions. First, Dlamini-Zulu approached the court saying she was married to the late king in community of property and, as such, she wants to inherit 50% of the late king’s estate.

She is not challenging the validity of the other five wives (including the late queen regent, Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, who is not related to her as she was from the royal family of Eswatini) of the late king.

However, in one of her affidavits, she contested that by marrying the late king, the other queens knew that their marriages would one day encounter legal hurdles as the king was married to her in civil rites and was legally not allowed to marry them.

In another case related to this challenge brought by Queen Sibongile, her two daughters, Princess Ntandoyenkosi and Princess Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma, are challenging the validity of the will of the late king saying it cannot stand as some of the signatures in it have been flagged as forged.

However, their legal challenge has encountered a bitter fight back after King Misuzulu hired another handwriting expert, Cecil Greenfield, who has filed a counter-report saying the signature was not forged.

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Furthermore, King Misuzulu said Yossi Vissoker, the handwriting expert hired by the two princesses, did not attach his CV in his report for the court where he said the late king’s signature was forged. As such, they argued his report should not be considered at all as his credentials are not known.

The third dimension is the counter application by King Misuzulu who wants the court to void the civil marriage of the queen to the late king, hence Buthelezi who is the traditional prime minister of the monarch and the Zulu nation now argues the marriage was not in civil rites format.

“In the circumstances, according to Zulu customary law, the marriage between the applicant queen and the late king was concluded prior to the celebration of the impugned civil marriage, purportedly by civil rights. As a matter of the law, then, the celebration conclusion of the impugned civil marriage was an exercise in futility. This was primarily, because, in terms of Zulu customary law, the marriage between the two had already been concluded.

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“It is for this reason that King Misuzulu has launched a conditional counter-application for a declaration that the applicant queen and the late king were married by customary rite prior to 27 December 1969. I support that application as one that is consonant with Zulu customary law and customs,” Buthelezi said in his affidavit.

In her counter-argument, Dlamini-Zulu disputes that, as she claims that her family follows the Christian faith and when it agreed that she should marry the then young King Goodwill Zwelithini, it was agreed that it should not be a traditional union, but a civil rites one.

“In my case, I got married by civil law and went on to practise all cultural and customary procedures. The practising of all customary procedures does not invalidate the marriage. I explained in… the founding affidavit that when lobola was negotiated, my family in unequivocal terms stated that I will (as their daughter) be married in terms of civil law.

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“The royal family accepted this request and as a result, we got married by civil law. I must dispel this myth and notion that Prince Buthelezi wants to create that once lobola is negotiated and paid the parties are precluded from entering into a civil marriage, that is simply incorrect.

“The intention of the parties more so the families through lobola, they create the everlasting bond between families as a matter of Zulu and other Nguni nations’ belief. I re-emphasize, after all the negotiations were done, the unanimous decision was that our marriage will be solemnized in the church in accordance with the civil law as it applied.

“Of importance, and as evidenced by the declaration forms that we signed, we expressly chose a civil marriage which was in community of property with profit and loss. This as I have said before, put an end to any notion or attempt to undo what no man can undo until the will of God by his time calls one of us to eternal rest,” she said in her responding affidavit.

Furthermore, Dlamini-Zulu attached a speech Buthelezi delivered around during the funeral of her mother where he allegedly said her marriage to the late king was done so that he could take over the throne.

But Buthelezi said that is not true as it was never a requirement for a king to be married before he could ascend the throne. He cited the case of King Shaka and King Dingane among other Zulu kings who took the throne before they were married.

Political Bureau