Thousands of people gathered this Saturday (20/08) at the royal palace of KwaKhangelamankengane, in South Africa, to witness the coronation of Misuzulu Zulu as the new king of the Zulu people.
The Zulus number 11 million people and represent almost a fifth of the total population of South Africa. With 11 official languages, South Africa recognizes in the Constitution sovereigns and traditional leaders, who, despite not having executive power, exercise moral authority and are revered by their people.
Early in the morning, men and women in colorful traditional dress began to gather outside the marble palace in the hills of Nongoma, a small town in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, the heart of the Zulu nation.
Rows of Zulu warriors known as amaButho spent hours performing war dances awaiting the king’s appearance, while the women sang and danced.
The king finally appeared before the crowd, holding a spear and shield and an outfit with black feathers.
“Today the Zulu nation begins a new chapter. I promise that I will work to unite the Zulu nation,” the new king told those present.
The night before, Misuzulu had entered the palace’s so-called “cattle corral” – a kind of temple of the Zulu nation – for a secret rite meant to introduce the new king to his ancestors.
Zulu warriors during the coronation (Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP)
Misuzulu’s Path to Securing the Crown
A bitter family dispute over the throne came to overshadow the ceremony. Misuzulu’s father, King Zwelithini, died in March last year, aged 72, after 50 years in office, leaving six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzulu is the first child of Zwelithini’s third wife, whom the late monarch had designated as regent in his will. But the queen died suddenly a month later, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king.
According to South African media, Queen Mother Mavis MaZungu and Prince Philemon pledged their support to the king.
However, Queen Sibongile Dlamini, the late king’s first wife, supported her son Prince Simakade Zulu as the rightful heir. Some of the late king’s brothers, in turn, put forward a third prince as their candidate for the throne.
Even as the celebrations began, a branch of the royal family was still trying to stop the ceremony in court, but the request was rejected by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal.
In March, the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, capital of the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, had already dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dlaminique seeking to challenge her husband’s will, demanding half of the former monarch’s fortune.
Zulu women in traditional clothing — Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP
Although the title of king does not confer executive power, monarchs exercise great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population. The Zulu nation is historically recognized for its resistance to British colonialism in the reign of monarch Shaka kaSenzangakhona, also known as Shaka Zulu, between 1816 and 1828.
Misuzulu will also inherit a fortune and have a rich source of income. His father Zwelithini received about 71 million rand (US$4.2 million) a year from the government and owned several palaces and other properties. A royal trust manages nearly three million hectares of land.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who in March recognized Misuzulu as the rightful king, is expected to formally certify the coronation at another ceremony in the coming months. In addition to the historic preservation of the culture of the Zulu people, KwaZulu-Natal is also one of the electoral bastions of the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in South Africa since 1994.