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Mgilija Nhleko dragged into Zulu royal family throne dispute – even in death

Mlandeni Nhleko (Mgilija). Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

Mlandeni Nhleko (Mgilija). Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 11, 2021


Durban - The late leader of Zulu regiments, Mlandeni Mgilija Nhleko, has once again found himself dragged into the raging dispute within the Zulu royal family, which is fighting over who is the rightful king of the Zulu nation.

Late on Wednesday, Zulu Princess Thembi Zulu-Ndlovu, a sister to the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, issued a statement to mourn his passing.

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Nhleko, who died on Monday while undergoing treatment for cancer at a private hospital in Richards Bay, made a name for himself when he meticulously commanded a legion of Zulu regiments during the burial of the late king in March this year.

He was later axed from his position after he showed support for former president Jacob Zuma, just days after he surrendered to Estcourt prison to start his 15-month sentence for contempt of the Constitutional Court.

Presiding over Nhleko’s firing, Dr Dumisani Khumalo, the chairperson of the Osuthu royal council, alleged that Nhleko had previously rudely exchanged words with the late king and was also caught on video saying he did not recognise the current king Misuzulu when he took part in an “illegal” traditional royal cleansing hunt following the king’s death.

That ended Nhleko’s career, and even after his clan later apologised to King Misuzulu, he never got the position back.

In her statement of condolence, Princess Thembi, who together with her faction called the "royal rebels", does not recognise Misuzulu as their King, said was it from the "Zulu royal family" said Nhleko was still the rightful leader of the regiments as appointed by the late king.

Princess Thembi Zulu and Prince Mbonisi Zulu of the so called “royal rebels” who don’t recognise Misuzulu as King. Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

She said according to her, the position would only be filled once "a rightfully chosen King of the Zulu nation has ascended to the throne".

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"In Nhleko, we have lost a regiment leader who was dedicated to serving and protecting the monarch, and he was dedicated to that until he took his last breath. His dedication to the monarch and not selling out made him an outstanding person who ensured stability within the Zulu nation and other nations.

“Because of his humility and work, the late King gave him the position of leading his regiments, a position the King left him serving on. As the royal family, we wish to say that he is still the only leader of regiments as rightfully appointed by the late King, and no one will take that position until a new King has been identified by the royal family," the Princess said in the statement.

The statement seems to suggest that while the dispute over the throne has seemingly been partly doused and with the coronation of Misuzulu set to go ahead early next month in Nongoma, the princess’s faction has not given up the fight yet.

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The faction wants the throne to be taken up by Prince Simakade, the first-born son of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, arguing he is the rightful heir.

The statement also partly signals that the faction will likely send its own representatives (to counter King Misuzulu’s delegation, which could attend as the Nhleko family reported Mgilija’s passing to his council) to speak when Nhleko is laid to rest this coming Saturday at his ancestral village Nhlalanwenya near Nongoma.

The warring sides are still waiting for a report from former KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu, who was assigned by the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to mediate in the dispute.

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Mchunu is believed to have finalised a preliminary report after he and his team met both sides to listen to them. King Misuzulu’s faction was led by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi in his capacity as the traditional prime minister of the king and the Zulu nation.

He met Mchunu and his team together with senior royal family members, Prince Philemon of KwaFihlinqindi and Prince Mbongiseni (MMM) of Osuthu, among others.

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Political Bureau