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Zulu regiment's actions in support of Zuma a 'clear act of defiance' of the king, says Buthelezi

04 July 2021 - 11:37 By aron hyman
Jacob Zuma walks alongside Mgijili Nhleko, right, an induna and commander of the Zulu regiments, outside the former president's home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Jacob Zuma walks alongside Mgijili Nhleko, right, an induna and commander of the Zulu regiments, outside the former president's home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Ilanga

The presence of regiments of traditional Zulu warriors (amabutho) at Nkandla on Saturday to stop authorities arresting former president Jacob Zuma was “unsanctioned” and a “clear act of defiance”.

This is according to traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

On Saturday, amabutho arrived in large numbers and bolstered uMkhonto weSizwe Veterans Association members who have for months formed an impromptu guard in defence of Zuma as the Constitutional Court weighed its decision on the former president’s defiance of an order to appear before the state capture commission.

Last week the apex court ordered that for his defiance of the court order, which was accompanied by an assault on the integrity of the court and its judges, Zuma was given five days to hand himself over to authorities to start a 15-month prison sentence.

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Zuma has since petitioned the court to rescind its decision, with the ConCourt agreeing to hear his matter on July 12.

The arrival of the amabutho caused consternation and questions about whether Zulu king Misuzulu kaZwelithini had thrown his weight behind Zuma.

However, the Zulu leadership on Saturday, in a statement authored by Buthelezi, laid the “unsanctioned” actions of the regiments at the feet of Zulu commander Zihogo Maguzumbela Nhleko.

Buthelezi said this was Nhleko’s second act of defiance against the Zulu monarchy.

He specifically noted that Nhleko had implicated the royal family by leading the warriors in traditional attire and that the regiments had also performed the Zulu salute, Bayede, in the absence of the king.

“His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, together with the Queen Mother, Her Majesty Queen Mayvis maZungu, and the Zulu royal family, wish to distance themselves from the actions of Mr Zihogo Maguzumbela Nhleko, known to many as Mgilija,” said Buthelezi.

“We have noted that Mr Nhleko led a group of people dressed in Zulu attire and accoutrements to Nkandla to join those who are sympathising with the former president, Mr Jacob Zuma. Mr Nhleko did this without any instruction from the king or the royal family, or from me as the traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation,” he added.

He then went into detail about Nhleko’s first alleged “act of defiance” which happened during the dramatic period of appointing a new Zulu king this year after the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu.

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“On the day that the widows of His Majesty King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu participated in the cleansing ceremony, there was a discussion within the royal family, because the cleansing ceremony normally takes place simultaneously with a ritual hunt,” said Buthelezi.

“However, since His Majesty the king was unwell and could not attend, I spoke to the queen mother and she opened her phone so that the family could join us. Prince Mbonisi and Princess Lindi, the siblings of the late king, were present,” he said.

He said it was agreed that the hunt would be postponed until the king could attend, because that is the appointed day for him to cleanse his “weapons”.

“However, Her Majesty maZungu later informed me that pressure was exerted on her, particularly by those opposed to the king, saying that the hunt should proceed. They subsequently held a hunt, in spite of the family’s decision,” said Buthelezi.

“Based on the family’s decision, I warned Mr Nhleko ... that neither he nor his regiments should attend a hunt in the absence of the king. He agreed that he would not do so. Nevertheless, he proceeded, as I learnt later, and attended the hunt. When some people asked him how he could be there when the king was not there, he responded that as far as he knows a king has not yet been appointed,” he said.

Former president Jacob Zuma addressed the media at his homestead in Nkandla on July 4, 2021. Zuma said his prison sentence was, in effect, a death sentence as his poor health and the risk of Covid-19 could lead to his death inside a jail cell.

He said that act of defiance of the king has now been followed by an unsanctioned visit to Nkandla with the regiments.

He said further confusion was created by a journalist who claimed that the king’s personal assistant, Prince Thulani Zulu, issued a statement on the matter. He said Zulu had not issued any such statement.

“Prince Thulani was phoned by a journalist while he was driving and was asked about the regiment’s actions. He merely commented that it was wrong of those who attended to implicate the royal family, because they not only attended, but also performed the Zulu salute Bayede in the absence of the king,” said Buthelezi.

Buthelezi said the reports that a statement was issued appeared to him to be part of a “concerted effort to elbow me out” due to suggestions that the traditional prime minister would no longer be the monarchy’s spokesperson.

“It still irks some that I am fulfilling my duty to the king and to the nation,” he said. “His Majesty the king has instructed me to issue this statement on his behalf, to clarify the matter,” said Buthelezi.

He reiterated King Misuzulu’s respect for government regulations as was evident when he cancelled a traditional prayer meeting a week ago which was to be held at Ceza in commemoration of King Dinuzulu arming the Zulu people to fight against the Zibebhu people.

“His Majesty postponed that prayer meeting, as it would have contravened the Covid-19 protocols put in place by government to be observed by the nation. Another meeting was scheduled for the following day, June 27, and His Majesty issued a statement cancelling that meeting as well, as he does not want anyone to defy the Covid-19 protocols or to place lives at risk.

“Clearly, His Majesty does not encourage people to defy regulations. He never sent Mr Nhleko to Nkandla, nor did he instruct him to go.

“While it has nothing to do with sympathy for the former president, the king does not want to involve the royal family or himself in what Mr Nhleko and those who accompanied him did. It was clear act of defiance,” said Buthelezi.