See candidates likely to succeed Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi as Zulu traditional prime minister

King Misuzulu has to appoint a new Zulu traditional prime minister. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

King Misuzulu has to appoint a new Zulu traditional prime minister. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Sep 14, 2023


Following the death of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the longest-serving traditional prime minister of the Zulu monarchy, King Misuzulu now has the daunting task of filling the role shortly after the mourning period.

The position is key in the kingdom's hierarchy and has been held by several people from various clans at different times.

However, some historians claim that Buthelezis clan got to hold the position thrice.

First by Inkosi Ngqengelele Buthelezi during the time of King Shaka.

At the time, he worked alongside Ngomane KaMqomboli Mdletshe and Mdlaka KaNcindi Ntshangase.

Soon afterwards, the role was then given to Mnyamana, the son of Inkosi Ngqengelele. Mnyamana served King Mpande but was more prominent during the reign of King Cetshwayo.

After him was Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, Mangosuthu’s father.

But other experts such as Professor Jabulani Maphalala, a Zulu historian, disputes this. They maintain that at the time, the position was held by Mankulumane Ndwandwe.

Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s father, was married to Princess Magogo KaDinuzulu.

In 1954, the position was bestowed on Mangosuthu by the late King Bhekuzulu. However, according to Professor Maphalala, this stands to be debated as other official records claim otherwise.

During his lifetime, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi repeatedly said he had asked King Goodwill Zwelithini to feel free to appoint his own prime minister but never did.

"Umdlokombane (King Goodwill Zwelithini) never did that, and he kept on utilising me as his prime minister until he passed on," Buthelezi said in 2021, at the height of the fight for the Zulu throne between Prince Simakade and King Misuzulu.

Buthelezi went on to serve under King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

However, even before his death on September 9, there were already signs that the contest for the position under King Misuzulu would be between Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi, the son of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and Prince Mthokozisi Mahlobo.

Prince Zuzifa Buthelezi. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANC)

Prince Zuzifa gave up his lucrative career and life as a businessman in Gauteng and came back to be by the side of his father until he died.

While the Buthelezis said this was meant to be an aide to his father, their detractors within the Zulu royal family said he was grooming him for the influential position.

The king is said to be in favour of Prince Mthokozisi Mahlobo taking over the position, and this became more evident in one of the public outbursts by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi last year.

Prince Mthokozisi Mahlabo. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/ IOL Politics

Prince Mthokozisi is the son of Princess Nozipho, a sister of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is married to the Mahlobo clan (the Ntombelas).

He has been on the side of King Misuzulu ever since he took over the throne in May 2021, and they had a brief fallout but later reconciled.

He is now back on the side of the king, and he frequents Ulundi.

Insiders said the king wanted to end the decades-long stranglehold of the Buthelezis over the Zulu monarch by appointing Prince Mthokozisi as the next Zulu traditional prime minister.

He wanted to do that by appointing Mahlobo as deputy traditional prime minister, a position that had never been in the hierarchy of the Zulu kingdom.

Feeling undermined, Buthelezi publicly confirmed last year that he asked the monarch to be at liberty to release him from his duties, rather than making Mahlobo his deputy.

He argued that in the Zulu royal structure there has never been such a position and it should not start under him.

“This position has never been, even the King knows that, so, it should not be created at all,” the late Buthelezi said.

Maphalala disputed that the position is solely for the Buthelezi clan, saying King Misuzulu can now pick anyone he wants.

He added that the prime minister cannot act on his own, as he has to consult the king all the time, and the king should do likewise.

"It's propaganda (that the king can only appoint a Buthelezi) he can appoint anyone.

"For example, Mnyamama, the prime minister of King Cetshwayo, was not followed by a Buthelezi; the position went to Mankulumane ka Somaphunga," Maphalala added.

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