Appointment of Zulu King ‘unlawful’
A South African high court has ordered President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate claims that customary laws were not followed in the selection of Misuzulu Sinqobile kaZwelithini as King of the Zulu people, the country’s largest ethnic group.
The order followed a Monday ruling that declared the South African government’s 2023 recognition of Misuzulu as heir to the Zulu throne as illegal.
Misuzulu, 49, was named monarch of more than ten million Zulu people who mainly live in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, after his father, King Goodwill Zwelithini, died in March 2021. King Zwelithini had ruled the country’s richest and most influential traditional monarchy for more than 50 years and his death triggered a succession dispute that delayed any coronation for 15 months.
In October last year, President Ramaphosa handed a certificate to Misuzulu at a state party, recognizing him as the new king.
However, some of Misuzulu’s siblings have contested the process, claiming that he is not the legitimate successor to the throne. His older brother, Prince Simakade, filed the lawsuit, seeking to overturn the presidential recognition.
The late King Zwelithini reportedly had six wives and at least 28 children. Misuzulu is said to be the first son of his third wife, whom he allegedly named regent in his will. The queen died a month after her husband’s death, leaving a will that designated Misuzulu as king, several reports claim.
On Monday, the Pretoria High Court criticized Ramaphosa for failing to set up an inquiry into the King’s legitimacy after becoming aware of a dispute in the royal house over the selection of the heir to the throne.
“It is declared that the recognition by the first respondent of the second respondent as Isilo [king] of the Zulu nation was unlawful and invalid, and the recognition decision is hereby set aside,” the Associated Press quoted the judgment delivered by Judge Norman Davis as saying.
The judge clarified that the ruling was not intended to determine whether the king was the rightful heir, but rather if the appropriate processes had been followed, the outlet added.
In response to the ruling on Tuesday, Misuzulu urged the royal family and the Zulu nation to remain calm.
“The King is still on the throne and continues with his day-to-day engagement of the Zulu nation,” he said in a statement published by local outlet Scrolla Africa.
South African law recognizes traditional rulers and grants them some authority and responsibilities.
The Zulu royal family is estimated to own about 30% of the land in the country’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province through the Ingonyama Trust. The Trust was established to manage the land that belonged to the KwaZulu government for the benefit of the Zulu communities living on it after apartheid ended. Prior to South Africa’s democratic transition in 1994, a part of KwaZulu-Natal was a self-governing homeland for black South Africans who had been relocated from white-only urban areas.