A new Zulu king is named in South Africa amid scenes of chaos as members of the royal family question the prince’s claim to the title
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – A new Zulu king has been appointed in South Africa amid chaos scenes after members of the royal family questioned Prince Misuzulu Zulu’s claim to the title after his father’s death, and bodyguards suddenly removed him from the public announcement of the palaces.
The controversy over the next king, mostly of a ceremonial role, but one of great importance to South Africa and its 12 million Zulus, arose after the death of the goodwill king Zwelithini, who had ruled since 1968, in March.
Zwelithini apparently named one of his six wives, Queen Mantfombi Shiyiwe Dlamini Zulu, as the “regent of the Zulu kingdom” in his will, but she died after holding the title for only a month, throwing the royal inheritance into turmoil.
The commotion erupted on Friday night while reading Queen Mantfombi’s will and hours after the memorial service for her. The Queen’s will appointed 46-year-old Prince Misuzulu, her eldest son with King Zwelithini, as heir and next king.
But another prince objected and cut off the revelation at the KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The two princesses also questioned whether the will of the late king gave Queen Mantfombi the right to nominate an heir after her death.
King Zwelithini reportedly had 28 children with different wives, and Queen Mantfombi was not his first wife. The inheritance dispute has been brewing since the late king’s death, fascinating many South Africans with his own royal scandal.
Significant to the dispute is the fate of the king’s property and the vast amounts of land that was traditionally owned by the Zulu people and is now held in trust. Estimates say that trust controls almost 30% of the land in KwaZulu-Natal province, or about 28,000 square kilometers (10,810 square miles). The king is the only trustee.
Earlier on Friday, Prince Misuzulu, who wore a traditional leopard skin headband reserved for royal members and leaders, called for unity among Zulu kings at his mother’s memorial service.
“We have no doubt that we will unite as a family,” he said in a message read by his younger sister, Princess Ntandoyesizwe Zulu. “Let us imitate the king by being peaceful.”
The Zulu king has no political or even constitutional position, but his traditional authority is recognized in KwaZulu-Natal, where he is said to “rule but not rule.” More than that, the king has an important role to play in bridging the gap between traditional customs and modern democracy in South Africa, where the Zulus are the largest ethnic group among the country’s 60 million people.
Forbes estimates the net worth of King Zwelithini at nearly $ 20 million, while the Zulu royal household provides an annual budget of about $ 5 million from the South African government.
King Zwelithini, who had diabetes, reportedly died of a COVID-19-related disease at the age of 72.