The Zulu Royal family has a longstanding tradition of resolving disputes over the succession of the throne between brothers. However, the present case represents a departure from this tradition, as it is the first instance in the kingdom’s history in which the courts have been involved in determining the rightful heir to the throne.

By Tshawe lama Tshawe

As the ongoing dispute between Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini and his half-brother, Prince Simakade Zulu, intensifies and awaits a verdict from the North Gauteng High Court regarding the legal challenge to depose the monarch, an expert on Zulu Royal matters has voiced concern regarding the potential ramifications of these tensions on the kingdom.

Prince Simakade has filed a legal challenge to contest President Cyril Ramaphosa’s endorsement of King Misuzulu as the legitimate heir, raising concerns about the adherence to both traditional and legal protocols. In his court documents, Prince Simakade has raised questions about President Ramaphosa’s impartiality in issuing the certificate.

Last year, Misuzulu ascended to the throne following the passing of his father, King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2021, who had reigned for five decades.

Ramaphosa, through his lawyer Advocate Marumo Moerane, stated that the certificate acknowledging Misuzulu as the rightful heir to the throne was issued after thorough consultations with the Zulu Royal family.

University of KwaZulu-Natal historian, Mpumelelo Ngidi has raised concerns about the potential consequences of resorting to the courts to address the current tensions within the Zulu royal family.

Ngidi described the move to approach the courts as “not an ideal protocol for a historically-rich kingdom of this stature and integrity,” saying the decision signalled “that the colonial vendetta of indirectly ruling over traditional kingdoms, is still in existence – even after the country has achieved self-determination and sovereignty from the shackles of colonialism.”

“The royal family has a history of solving brother-to-brother throne contestation.

“I believe that the current case should have been solved outside of the courts. 

“This is the first time in the history of the kingdom, whereby the throne is decided by the courts – not providing a scintillating scene.

“The kingdom was able to solve the same situation between King Dinizulu’s sons, Prince Solomon and Prince David.

“They were also able to solve the same contestation between Prince Thanduyise and then Prince Bhekuzulu, after the death of King Solomon kaDinizulu in 1933.

“In both cases, the Natal Affairs Department interfered to solve the contestation.

“In the latter case, a commission was set which resulted in King Bhekuzulu being appointed as the king of the kingdom.

“Prince Mshiyeni became a regent as King Bhekuzulu was still young and was only coronated in 1948.

“What is currently playing in the court, has a potential of being divisive in the Zulu society and instigating antagonism.

“This is because we are existing in a different era where information spreads through various platforms and this is playing in the public arena.

“My insinuation is that, whatever decision the court reaches, the family should go back and address the issue – to bury the hatchet and come to the Zulu nation as one united family.”

When asked about the possibility of resolving the tensions through the intervention of royal elders, given the recent passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu kingdom’s longest-serving traditional prime minister, Ngidi said: “The problem is that the royal elders are also part of this divisive situation, which is playing before the public.

“The family should find a way to solve this. Akukho okungahlula umndeni uhlangene (nothing can overcome the family if united).

“Such meetings should also involve neutral individuals who can be sent by amakhosi or government – because we cannot deviate from the fact that we are existing in the constitutional democracy.

“This is the very same constitution, which has saved the family from bloodshed.

“If it was not for the era we are existing in, a civil war would have been unavoidable – as seen during the pre-July 1979 period.”

Despite the current impasse, Ngidi asserts that it is important to exercise caution and refrain from hastily appointing a traditional prime minister.

“There should be no rush to appoint the traditional prime minister. As important as the position is, his majesty King Misuzulu KaZwelithini, should allow the Buthelezi family to perform all post-burial ceremonies. “The decision to appoint the prime minister lies solely with the king and his council,” maintained Ngidi.

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