Chaos at palace as new Zulu king’s claim to title disputed

Prince Misuzulu Zulu was suddenly whisked away by bodyguards from the public announcement at KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in Nongoma.

South Africa Zulu King
South Africa Zulu King

A new Zulu king was named amid scenes of chaos on Friday night as other members of the royal family in South Africa questioned his claim to the title.

Prince Misuzulu Zulu was suddenly whisked away by bodyguards from the public announcement at KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in Nongoma.

The controversy over the next king, a largely ceremonial role but one with great significance for South Africa and its 12 million Zulu people, has arisen after the death in March of King Goodwill Zwelithini, who had reigned since 1968.

South Africa Zulu King
Prince Misuzulu Zulu, centre, flanked by fellow warriors in traditional dress during the ceremony at KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in Nongoma (AP)

He had apparently named one of his six wives, Queen Mantfombi Shiyiwe Dlamini Zulu, as the “regent of the Zulu kingdom” in his will, but her death just over a week ago after holding the title for only a month has thrown the royal succession into turmoil.

The commotion broke out at the reading of Queen Mantfombi’s will and hours after a memorial service for her.

Her will named 46-year-old Prince Misuzulu, her eldest son with King Zwelithini, as the next king.

But another prince objected and interrupted the announcement at the palace in KwaZulu-Natal province, while two princesses have already questioned whether the late king’s will gave Queen Mantfombi the right to nominate a successor on her death.

King Zwelithini reportedly had 28 children with his different wives, and Queen Mantfombi was not his first wife.

The dispute over succession has been rumbling for a month since the former king’s death, fascinating many South Africans with their very own royal scandal.

South Africa Zulu King
Prince Misuzulu, centre, had called for unity among the Zulu royal family at the memorial service for his mother, Queen Mantfombi (AP)

Earlier on Friday, Prince Misuzulu, who wore a traditional leopardskin headband reserved for royalty, called for unity among the Zulu royals at his mother’s memorial service.

“We have no doubt we will unite as a family,” he said in his tribute to the queen, which was read out by his younger sister, Princess Ntandoyesizwe Zulu.

“Let us emulate the king by being peaceful.”

The Zulu king has no political or even constitutional position but his traditional authority is recognised in KwaZulu-Natal, where he is said to “reign but not rule”.

More than that, he holds an important role in bridging the gap between South Africa’s traditional customs and its modern democracy, with Zulus the largest ethnic group among South Africa’s 60 million people.

King Zwelithini, who had diabetes, reportedly died from a Covid-19 related illness at the age of 72.

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