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Chris Ndaliso
Senior journalist
4 minute read
24 Jun 2022
06:02

Rift over Zulu royal rituals

Chris Ndaliso

The rift continues to widen in the Zulu royal household as parties persist with their fight over the throne.

The rift continues to widen in the Zulu royal household as parties persist with their fight over the throne.

The Witness has reported extensively on the tensions in the royal family since the death of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu last year.

One faction in the household, which has not accepted the recognition of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini as the monarch, has directed a number of accusations against him and Zulu nation prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Senior royals dispossessed

The faction, which calls itself the “core Zulu royal family members” allege that senior royal household members have been dispossessed of the right to run the royal family’s affairs.

They said that “external forces” have been imposing their agenda on the royal family affairs since the death of King Zwelithini. The group also claimed that senior politicians from two political parties have captured the royal family.

In a statement on Thursday, the group said it has approached the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge the awarding of kingship status to Misuzulu by President Cyril Ramaphosa. They are appealing the March judgment handed down by Deputy Judge President Isaac Madondo in the Pietermaritzburg high court. They said they also noted Buthelezi’s recent announcement of a cleansing ceremony, a ritual hunt and the washing of the King Zwelithini’s weapons set for this weekend.

“It is public knowledge that the Zulu royal family has performed cleansings of the royal households, the ritual hunt and the washing of the king’s weapons on the 18th of June 2021, where Prince Mi­suzulu excused himself from attending, claiming an illness. The ceremonies and rituals were led and performed by the core Zulu royal family members,” reads the statement.

Faction says rituals are complete

The faction disputed statements that the rituals performed by the family were inappropriate and only a king could announce the dates for a cleansing ceremony for his late father.

“Which weapons will be washed in these pleasant ceremonies they will be undertaking, as the king’s weapons have already been washed by the Zulu royal family? Who will be heading these proceedings, as all Zulu royal family rituals and ceremonies can only be led by senior Zulu royal family members? Lastly, how would a King announce dates of ihlambo [cleansing ceremony] if ihlambo had to take place before a king is selected as per our customs? It is nonetheless expected for individuals that aim to belittle our traditions to make rules that will suit their agenda,” reads the statement.

When contacted for comment, King Misuzulu’s spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, rubbished the allegations made against the monarch.

He said no one was dispossessed of their rights. “The people you are talking about broke away from the royal family in broad daylight. They had been invited several times to family meetings and they apologised and never attended.

Zulu said:

“I think they themselves created an unnecessary rift within the family. There is only one head of the family duly recognised by the president of South Africa through a Government Gazette. The royal family is united behind the king and we cannot talk about those who isolate themselves deliberately.”

As for the capture of the royal household by two political parties, Zulu said he had no idea who was being referred to.“Again I have no idea who the external forces referred to might be. The throne we are talking about belongs to the Zulu nation and not to a particular family.”

Zulu said the only senior royal family members, which include Queen Mother Mavisi Zungu, the widow of King Bhekuzulu, were behind King Misuzulu.

“I know of no other seniors in the main House of Usuthu. If people decided not to be party to the legitimate and known process of putting the king where he belongs, we cannot delay [because of] them,” said Zulu.

He said if the weapons were washed and given to a headman as it happened last year, then the process was not complete, and that the King would have to start the ritual from scratch because he was not there.

“No washing of weapons has ever taken place if the king, as the most senior member of the royal family, is not present. Every royal activity performed without his blessings cannot be legitimate,” Zulu said.