South Africa recognizes new Zulu king in first coronation in over 50 years

The monarch’s appointment follows a year of succession disputes within the royal family; King MisuZulu succeeds his father Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021

RAJESH JANTILAL / AFPnew zulu king south africa
King Misuzulu Zulu, 48, waves to fans during the king’s coronation at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban

A huge crowd gathered at a stadium in Durban, South Africa, this Saturday, 29, to commemorate the recognition of the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa to the king of the Zulus. This “coronation” – a term widely used in the country – was the first in more than half a century and will take place after a year of succession disputes within the royal family. Misuzulu Zulu, 48, succeeded her father Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 after a long reign under apartheid and then transitioning to democracy. The death of this respected figure, crowned in 1968, at the age of 20, shook the country. The new King MisuZulu (“the one who strengthens the Zulu people”), who was quickly recognized by President Ramaphosa, is the son of the late king’s relationship with his favorite third wife, described as a “great queen”. The first wife contested the succession in court, but the court denied the appeal. The title of king does not confer executive power, but the monarch exerts great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who represent nearly a fifth of the South African population. In the young democracy of eleven official languages, sovereigns and traditional chiefs are recognized by the Constitution. Among the thousands of people gathered at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, the country’s third city on the Indian Ocean, was Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Eswatini, who is the uncle of the new Zulu king. The fame of the Zulu people, which resonates beyond African borders, is originally based on the exploits of Chaka, a ruthless warrior and creator of an army that, generations later, at the end of the 19th century, won a bloody battle against the British Empire. The coronation was attended by a huge crowd, made up of women in colorful robes and men dressed as warriors.

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Zulu King Misuzulu is seen on screen at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban │Marco LONGARI / AFP

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Amabutho, regiments of King Zulu, dressed in traditional garb and carrying shields and batons, are seen at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban │Marco LONGARI / AFP

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Amabutho, regiments of King Zulu, dressed in traditional garb and carrying shields and batons, march outside Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban │Marco LONGARI / AFP

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Amabutho, regiments of King Zulu, dressed in traditional garb and carrying shields and batons, are seen at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban │Marco LONGARI / AFP

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Amabutho, regiments of King Zulu, dressed in traditional garb and carrying shields and batons, are seen at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban │Marco LONGARI / AFP

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