South Africa: South Africa

King Misuzulu, who ascended to the throne, will wield great symbolic power for over 11 million Zulus. They make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population.

Thousands of people gathered at the Zulu royal palace in South Africa on Saturday to witness the crowning Misuzulu Zulu as a new Zulu king.

From the early morning, men and women in colorful traditional outfits started to assemble outside the marble palace on the hills of Nongoma, a small town in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Zulu heartland.

Lines of Zulu warriors known as Amabutho spent hours performing war dances awaiting the king’s appearance, while women sang and danced.

Suddenly the king appeared before the crowd, holding a spear and a shield and wearing a costume of black feathers.

“Today the Zulu nation starts a new chapter. I promise I will work to unite the Zulu nation,” the new king told well-wishers from the throne, wearing a traditional leopard skin and a necklace of animal claws.

On the previous evening, Misuzulu had entered the palace’s “cattle kraal” for a secret rite meant to introduce the new king to his ancestors, according to the AFP news agency.

Misuzulu’s path to the crown

A bitter family feud over the throne overshadowed the ceremony. Misuzulu’s father, king Zwelithini, died in March last year after 50 years in charge, leaving six wives and at least 28 children.

Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will. But the queen died suddenly a month later, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king.

According to South African media outlet Eyewitness News, the queen mother Mavis MaZungu and senior prince Philemon have pledged their support for the king.

However, queen Sibongile Dlamini, the late king’s first wife, has backed her son Prince Simakade Zulu as the rightful heir. Some of the late king’s brothers have put forward a third prince as their candidate for the throne.

Even as celebrations got underway, a legal appeal from a branch of the royal family to block all ceremonies was struck down by a court.

Lucrative position

Although the title of king does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population.

Misuzulu will also inherit a fortune and tap into a rich seam of income. His father Zwelithini received some 71 million rand ($4.2 million) a year from the government and owned several palaces and other properties. A royal trust manages almost three million hectares of land (around 7,412,000 acres).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who in March recognized Misuzulu as the rightful king, is to formally certify the crowning at a ceremony in the coming months.

Edited by: Darko Janjevic