The AmaZulu Kingdom of South Africa gathered on Saturday, August 20th to complete the traditional coronation of their new king, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini. Thousands of people arrived at the KwaKhangelamankengane Palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu Natal to witness the king ascend the throne. The large crowds present included community members as well as people from different areas of South Africa, izintombi (Zulu maidens) in colorful regalia and amabutho (Zulu regiments) dressed in their traditional attire and holding spears and various weapons. The coronation is the final ceremony in a process that leads to the new king sitting on the throne.
The process included the king to be Misuzulu ka Zwelithini taking part in the hunting of a lion and killing it. This is done to show that he is indeed worthy of the throne and he is supposed to wear the hide of the lion. On the day of the coronation, he entered esibayeni, which is the cattle kraal. This part of the ceremony is regarded as highly spiritual as Misuzulu is being introduced to his ancestors as the new king. “The symbolism of entering the kraal is that the king will be seeking blessings and protection from previous kings and ancestors while also announcing his arrival to the throne, so it is quite a symbolic moment in the Zulu nation’s history,” said cultural expert Dr. Maxwell Shamase. According to cultural experts, this entering of the cattle kraal is an important moment in the history of the Zulu nation because it will be the first time a king born of two royal households does so in modern times.
After entering the kraal, Misuzulu was introduced as the king and he finally took the position that he was destined for since birth. Misuzulu spoke at the coronation, calling for unity not only amongst the people of KwaZulu but also in the royal family. He said there were forces at hand trying to divide the royal family. “We are aware of this, and I caution you that following today’s event, we ought to pursue unity and not divisions,” said Misuzulu. Misuzulu also called out those who would not have him as king and added that amongst the other things that made him king, he had also received the certificate recognizing him as king from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The coronation ceremony was attended by dignitaries, South African politicians, and other royal families. The royal families of Malawi and Zambia, with ties to the Zulu royal family, were in attendance. King Mswati of eSwatini sent representatives to the ceremony as he could not be present. Philile Cindi is a social worker who majored in industrial psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is Zulu and was present at the coronation ceremony. “The coronation was an emotional event for me. To see history take place right in front of my eyes gave me goosebumps. I enjoyed every minute of it and would do it a million times over in a heartbeat. It reignited my love for the Zulu culture and I’m proud of my king,” Cindi said.
Misuzulu ka Zwelithini was born on September 23rd 1974 in Kwahlabisa, KwaZulu-Natal. He attended the private school known as St. Charles College in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The Zulu King studied in the United States of America at Jacksonville University. He lived in the US for several years. He is married to two wives and has three sons. King Misuzulu is the eldest child of the now deceased King Goodwill Zwelithini and Queen Matfombi Dlamini-Zulu. The new head of the Zulu monarch is the child of royals. His mother, Queen Mantfombi, is the child of King Sobhuza II of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) and sister of King Mswati. At the time of the marriage between King Zwelithini and Queen Mantfombi, one of the conditions of their union was that their eldest son would become king after the death of his father. According to Zulu customs, a king is born not chosen. “The king is not nominated or elected but is born. King Misuzulu may not be the first-born son of his father, but by virtue of the fact that his mother is a princess, it was already written in the stars that a king would be born out of such a union,” said Professor Sihawukele Ngubane, a cultural expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. From the moment he was born, Misuzulu was most likely going to be king because he is the eldest son of a marriage between royals. The fact that King Misuzulu also inherited the traditional weapons of his grandfather, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu ka Solomon, indicated that he would eventually step into the role of king.
King Misuzulu’s ascendance to the throne was not simple. It was a complicated journey with several challenges, legal and otherwise. When King Zwelithini died on March 12th, 2021, his will revealed that he had left his third wife Queen Mantfombi as the regent. A regent is a person who sits in as caretaker of the throne until the rightful heir is responsible enough to assume duties. This will was challenged by King Zwelithini’s first wife, Sibongile Winifred Zulu, and her daughters who claimed it was a forgery. It so happened that a few weeks after Zwelithini passed away, Queen-Regent Mantfombi died as well, on April 29th, 2021. Queen Mantfombi’s will named Misuzulu as successor. While this was seen by many in the circles of the royal family as the natural progression of matters, some were not pleased.
The royal family was divided into factions that had their own desires. The factions in the family had their preferred candidates for the throne. There was a faction that was rooting for Prince Simakade, who is King Zwelithini’s oldest son, using that as his claim to the throne. Simakade and his backers wrongfully declared him king on Saturday, August 13th, a move that was labeled “foolish provocation” by the traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. On Thursday, August 18th, before King Misuzulu’s coronation, King Zwelithini’s brothers announced their own preference, Prince Buzabazi, who they claimed was the closest son to his father. On the very day of the coronation, a Pietermaritzburg court heard an urgent application for the coronation to be halted. The application, brought by King Misuzulu’s sisters, was dismissed. Since the death of King Zwelithini, there has been a flurry of legal cases and conduct that have cast an embarrassing light on the affairs of the royal family.
The Zulu Nation is an extremely proud nation with a rich history. They make up about 20% of South Africa’s population. They are the kingdom of the world-famous King Shaka Zulu, a leader renowned for his military strategies that allowed the Zulu people to exert dominance over their neighbors and expand their territory. He is also infamous for killing his brother in order to ascend the throne, an example of the dangers that lie in succession battles. The Zulus are historically known for being brave warriors, famously defeating the British at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879.