While the entering of the kraal ritual, to be performed by Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini on Saturday, is a significant part of the coronation process, the public has never been part of this Zulu royal ceremony.
University of KwaZulu-Natal cultural expert Gugu Mazibuko said while the purpose of the ceremony was to cement the bond between the new king, amabutho (Zulu regiments), the ancestors and the general public, finer details of the rituals are not clear as the public has never been part of the ritual.
Remember that in most cases the coronation of a Zulu king happened in a war situation where issues of security played a major role in how these kinds of rituals were performed.
Since the Zulu nation was founded, it will be the first time that the ritual is performed under peaceful conditions.
According to other Zulu historians, the last time the entering-the-kraal ceremony was performed was in 1954, during the installation of King Misuzu kaZwelithini’s grandfather — King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon.
King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s father, the late King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu — who was installed in 1968 — is said to have not performed the ritual.
However, Mazibuko said it was highly unlikely that King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and other Zulu kings before him did not perform the ritual.
Although there are no records showing that King Zwelithini and some of the other kings performed the ritual, I think they certainly did — particularly given that it’s an important ritual.
They must have performed it privately.
Since the establishment of the Zulu Kingdom in 1816, Mazibuko said, it would be the first time the public was being invited to the event.
It just shows you how time has moved.
While Zulu nation prime minister Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi conceded that the public was not familiar with all the details surrounding the ceremony, he said there was nothing secret about the ritual.
“As His Majesty King Misuzulu Sinqobile kaZwelithini prepares to enter the cattle kraal at KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace on Saturday, August 20, many questions have been asked by various people as to the meaning of this ceremony and what it entails.
“It has been presumed that this ceremony of Ukungeni Esibayeni (entering the kraal) amounts to the anointing of the king of the Zulu nation.
“However, this is not the case. It is, instead, closer in nature to a traditional prayer and ritual wishing the king well and declaring the people’s loyalty to His Majesty the King,” he said.
The ceremony, which will be characterised by song and dance, will see the new king walk into the kraal at the kwaKhangelamankengane Palace in Nongoma.
“Once His Majesty has reached the kraal and enters it, a senior member of the royal family will state the passing away of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu on March 12, 2021 and announce, before both the living and the dead, that his son, King Misuzulu Sinqobile kaZwelithini, has taken over as king of the Zulu nation.
“The ceremony itself is not complicated, and neither does it contain formal speeches.”
There is a belief that women are not allowed inside the kraal during the ritual.
But Mazibuko said female senior royal family members have always been an exception.
When King Dinizulu entered the kraal, he was actually accompanied by his mother, Queen Okamsweli.
Saturday’s ceremony happens amid divisions within the Zulu royal family.
Two weeks ago, King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s rival, Prince Smakade Zulu, declared himself the legitimate king of the Zulu nation.
However, unlike King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, Prince Smakade is not recognised by the South African government.
*Witness reporters will be reporting live from Nongoma this weekend. Follow The Witness on Twitter @witnesskzn and like The Witness on Facebook.