Zulu coronation: King Misuzulu destined to be Zulu monarch but still faces tough opposition

King Misuzulu KaZwelithini was born to lead the Zulu nation. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

King Misuzulu KaZwelithini was born to lead the Zulu nation. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

Published Oct 24, 2022


Durban – Misuzulu Sinqobile KaZwelithini, who this week set to be crowned the 9th King of the Zulu nation this week at a massive gathering in Durban was always destined for the role.

In December, 1971 his late father, King Goodwill Zwelithini was crowned king of the Zulu nation. After assuming the throne, King Goodwill set himself to reviving the great Zulu kingdom, which had almost become dormant during the colonial era.

Around 1972, he visited the Kingdom of eSwatini, which was by then under the leadership of the late King Sobhuza. By then the tiny and repressive kingdom had been granted self-rule by the British after years of being a protectorate, a move aimed at preventing the then South African apartheid government from annexing it together with Lesotho and Botswana.

Being a guest of King Sobhuza, King Goodwill Zwelithini was accorded a VVIP status and princes were assigned to give him company. Among them was Prince Masitsela, a brother to the current eSwatini King, Mswati III.

A story is told about how the Zulu king could not help but stare at Princess Mantfombi then. Prince Masitsela was bothered and privately asked him if he had an interest in her. The Zulu king responded affirmatively.

Prince Masitsela said they would relay the message to the elders and Princess Mantfombi was hooked up with the king.

But there were conditions: the Zulu king was reminded of an old Nguni culture that Umntfanenkosi akadleli phansi (meaning a king’s daughter cannot be equal to commoners) and that if he intended to marry her, she would be the senior wife.

The Zulu king agreed and went back to Zululand, where he indicated his intention to marry the eSwati princess. But that was not accepted by some in the Zulu royal family, as it was felt that he was giving in to the eSwati monarch.

Despite the opposition, King Goodwill Zwelithini went ahead with his plan and when Princess Mantfombi was brought home, she became Queen Mantfombi, after her lobola was paid for by the Zulu nation.

One of the arrangements was that she would give birth to the heir to the Zulu monarch. Years later, the resentment over this arrangement would be heard in King Goodwill Zwelithini praises (which are always precisely about one’s life, actions and decisions) as his praise singers called him, “The one who crossed the Pongola river and sold out to the Swazi people.”

So by September 23, when King Misuzulu was born at Hlabisa hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, it was already known in the royal court that the king already had a future king. The fact that it was known was echoed in August when the King entered the sacred royal kraal. Senior Zulu Prince Philemon Zulu of KwaFihlinqindi, even told a media briefing, “This noise (about the throne) always puzzled me because all along it was well known who would be the next king.”

Queen Mother Mavis Zungu, the only remaining widow of the late King Cyprian Bhekuzulu, echoed similar sentiments.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the monarch’s traditional prime minister, publicly said: “It is not us who are installing you, you were installed by your parent (King Goodwill Zwelithini).” This was an apparent reference to the agreement that Queen Mantfombi would give birth to the next Zulu heir.

Buthelezi said this on August 20, this year at KwaKhangelamankengane Palace in Nongoma, after the king came out of the kraal.

Even though it was always known that Misuzulu would be king… Up to this moment, the throne is still being contested by Prince Simakade, the firstborn son of the late king who was born out of wedlock, and Prince Buzabazi.

Misuzulu and his siblings by Queen Mantfombi have always been seen as “outsiders” in the royal court, because their mother was the only queen who is non-Zulu or non-South African. Some of his detractors in the royal court even call him a “Zulu king who is a Swazi”.

That stems from the fact that King Misuzulu spent his early years in eSwatini, where he started schooling. He would later, together with his siblings, frequent the kingdom and enjoy some financial benefits since their mother was a beneficiary in one of the many royal family-controlled companies in the kingdom.

It would appear that earned them some envy and enemies, as other members of the Zulu royal family were left to fight for the crumbs given them by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.

The reality that Queen Mantfombi was always viewed as an outsider by some within the royal court is contained in court papers before the Pietermaritzburg High Court. In the papers it is alleged that when the issue of appointing a regent came up after the passing of King Goodwill, some three senior Zulu royal family members objected to her being appointed on the basis that she “was not Zulu”.

In the end, those who opposed her on that basis could not prevail, as it was argued that she has been in the royal courts for decades and as such, she could assume any royal role despite her eSwati origin.

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