Home » After king’s death, Zulu royals postpone appointing official heir

After king’s death, Zulu royals postpone appointing official heir

by Ishioma Emi

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu was appointed queen regent of the AmaZulu Kingdom on March 21. She will govern its affairs for three months while the Zulu nation’s royal family mourns the late King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who died on March 12. 

Prime Minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi broke the news after consultations with members of the royal family and the late king’s lawyer, nine days after his death.

Her appointment eliminated a leadership vacuum and silenced other voices within the royal family that harbored kingship ambitions. By tradition, the interim administration should have passed to one of the king’s brothers. However, the family sought to exercise caution and avoid an uneasy transition of power to the rightful heir in the future. 

According to an anonymous insider statement reported by Sunday World, Prince Mcwayizeni Israel Zulu, Zwelithini’s uncle who acted as the king regent, had a difficult time handing over power to Zwelithini when the time came. 

In January 2020, Briefly listed King Zwelithini as one of the 10 wealthiest African kings and estimated his net worth at $19 million. 

A Zulu king receives monthly allowances from the government. He also has a say in how the R70-million ($4.73 million) annual budget allocated by the KwaZulu-Natal government for royal upkeep is utilized.

Queen Regent

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu is from the sovereign Swazi royal family, who founded the present-day Eswatini. At the time of her betrothal in 1973 to Zwelithini, the king operated a less powerful, mediatized government compared to her father’s. Many frowned at the union because of the unequal monarchical influences.

On that basis, the Swazi palace placed a marriage condition that Mantfombi must become his “Great Wife,” which Zwelithini accepted, marrying her in 1977.

By implication, only her male children would become the king’s favorites to succeed him, even though she was his third wife. This makes her first son, Prince Misuzulu Zulu, the heir-apparent to the Zulu throne. 

Why is Prince Misuzulu Zulu not yet King of Zululand?

Prince Misuzulu Zulu is 47 years old and unmarried. Aside from having been educated in the United States and rumors of having a son with an unknown woman, very little is known about him, Sunday World further reported.

The royal house said the delay in appointing the next king will afford it and the nation time to mourn. However, it appears that the prince’s marital status is a complicating factor. An unmarried prince is not allowed to ascend to the throne by  Zulu tradition.

According to the anonymous insider, the late king’s will confirms Prince MisuZulu as his successor. “The only stumbling block is that he is unmarried, and according to the African belief system and Zulu culture, the king can only ascend to the throne once he is married and has a queen. So, within the three months’ period, it is expected that this would have been sorted out,” the insider said.

What is at stake?

The Zulu nation is the largest tribe in South Africa, with an estimated 11 million people. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal provinces in the country’s southeast. 

The Zulu people play a critical role in South African politics due to their number and level of engagement in leading governmental offices. For instance, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the prime minister, is the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the fourth most prominent political party in the country, whose members are linked to the Trust Feed massacre on Dec. 3, 1988, and Boipatong massacre on June 17, 1992. 

The IFP is a Zulu-based movement that attempted to maintain the ethnic-based division enforced by the Apartheid regime for decades. It is directly opposed to the African National Congress, the country’s largest political party.

Despite its influence, the Zulu royal family does not have official social media channels. The new Zulu king will have to play a significant role in uniting and educating his people while influencing the urbanized, tech-driven younger generation in terms of cultural values.

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