AmaZulu royal family members challenge Ramaphosa's decision to crown Misuzulu king

The Pretoria high court was filled with members of the amaZulu royal family who had come to support King Misuzulu kaZwelithini who is being challenged for the throne by his brother Prince Simakade Zulu.

21 October 2023 - 13:47
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Prince Simphiwe Zulu, (in green) together with a group of Amabutho, gathered outside the Pretoria high court pledging support for King Misuzulu Zulu. Photo Veli Nhlapo
Prince Simphiwe Zulu, (in green) together with a group of Amabutho, gathered outside the Pretoria high court pledging support for King Misuzulu Zulu. Photo Veli Nhlapo
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The Pretoria high court is to determine whether to set aside President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recognition of Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini after hearing an application from the royal family this week for the decision to be reviewed. 

Madiba Street was cordoned off between Paul Kruger and Bosman streets from Monday to Wednesday to make way for a large group of amabutho and maidens who had come from KwaZulu-Natal to show support for their king.

Dressed in traditional attire , Zulu princes and princesses led the group in song and dance as they chanted “one king in KwaZulu”.

The public gallery was filled with members of the royal family, including the monarchs. 

The recognition of King Misuzulu caused a split in the royal family, with Misuzulu's half-brother Prince Simakade Zulu claiming he is entitled to the throne, while the king’s uncle, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, believes the family should reconvene to identify an heir.

AmaZulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhezulu died in March 2021 and named his wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, as regent. But she died less than a month later and named her son Prince Misuzulu as her nominated successor in her will.

Speaking in support of Prince Simakade, Prince Mandlakapheli Zulu said the royal house had already prepared to install the half-brother as monarch. 

“At this point in time ... the person the royal houses ushered to the throne is King Simakade. Prince Misuzulu — the family never recognised him as the king. We did everything cultural that had to be done. The family has the right, not the president or the government or whoever, to recognise their king,” he said ahead of the proceedings.

Prince Mbonisi’s argument was that a meeting on May 14 2021, convened by the late prime minister to the amaZulu nation Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had not determined the rightful heir and Buthelezi had acted prematurely by deciding Misuzulu would be king.

This was also confirmed by Prince Mandlakapheli, who said Buthelezi should have acted according to the instructions of the royal family, which he claimed to have done.

“Unfortunately, in this case, the late Prince Buthelezi is the nephew of the royal family. He is not right. Even though he was saying that he was the prime minister, we have emphasised, time and again, that the prime minister serves at the behest of the monarchy. The monarchy has to take the decision and he has to relay it to the nation,” Mandlakapheli said.

Advocate Thabani Masuku, who represented Prince Mbonisi, said the royal family was unhappy with the late Prince Buthelezi as they felt he was not entitled to introduce a new king.

“That meeting could never be a meeting that represents the royal family as defined. The chairperson of that meeting was Prince Buthelezi and it was a great debate between the parties about the status of Prince Buthelezi to sit as a member of the royal family and preside over the issues and direct the affairs of the royal family in so far as the identification of a king is concerned.”

Advocate Alan Dodson, who represented Prince Simakade, said the prince was recognised and identified as the successor by the royal family, despite the “unlawful” process embarked on by Buthelezi. 

This first happened at a meeting of the royal family held at the Kwakhethomthandayo Royal Palace on May 5 2021 which was called by senior AmaZulu princess Thembi. The second time he was recognised was at another royal family meeting at the Kwanongoma Glorious Function Hall on 23 May 23 2021, also called by Princess Thembi. 

“Astonishingly, the president in his answering affidavit, states that he was not even aware of the meeting of May 5 2021. This admission is fatal to the president's recognition decision. The May 5 2021 identification of Prince Simakade by the royal family is clearly a relevant factor which ought to have been taken into account by the president in deciding whether or not to recognise [Prince Misuzulu KaZwelithini] as [the king],” Dodson argued. 

The respondents in this matter — Ramaphosa, the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, and King Misuzulu — all relied on the Pietermaritzburg high court judgment by justice Isaac Madondo.

Madondo had dismissed three separate applications by the late King Goodwill Zwelithini’s first wife, Queen Winifred Dlamini-Zulu, her two daughters and another by Prince Mbonisi.

The princesses had approached the court to halt the coronation of Prince Misuzulu, stating the will of the late king had been forged. Prince Mbonisi also wanted to halt the ceremony, stating a Zulu royal family meeting to nominate and propose a successor had not been held.

Madondo dismissed all applications and held that the then Prince Misuzulu was the “undisputed successor” to the throne.

In response, state advocate Marumo Moerane, on behalf of Ramaphosa and Cogta, stated Ramaphosa was not obliged to investigate whether the right processes were followed and did what was required of him, based on Madondo’s judgment.

“We submit that at the time the president took his decision on March 16, justice Madondo’s order was in full effect and force. We submit the president was entitled, if not obliged, to rely on the findings made,” said Moerane.

Justice Norman Davis reserved judgment and said he would take all arguments into consideration.

Meanwhile, Prince Misuzulu was said not to be too concerned about the judgment.

“The king is very excited and is preparing to go hunting — that is how relaxed he is. He is reading, jogging and staying fit. He’s not even worried. He is just very concerned for them (applicants) because imagine your brother and your uncle taking you to court. It’s concerning,” his spokesperson Prince Africa Zulu told TimesLIVE.


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