‘King is not born but appointed’ idea dismissed

Amabutho were out in full force to support King Misuzulu in North Gauteng High Court yesterday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Amabutho were out in full force to support King Misuzulu in North Gauteng High Court yesterday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 19, 2023


Durban — Cultural experts have expressed shock at the representation of Prince Mbonisi Zulu’s legal team which argued that in the Zulu royal family, the king was not born but appointed by the family through a nomination process.

In their arguments, both advocate Menzi Simelane SC and advocate Thabani Masuku SC told the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that the notion that the king was born in KwaZulu-Natal was a misplaced understanding.

The advocates added that historically, Zulu kings have been appointed by the family members. Prince Mbonisi, who had shown seriousness by beefing up his legal team with Simelane, once the director of National Public Prosecutions, wants the court to set aside the May 14, 2021 royal family finding that appointed King Misuzulu to succeed his late father, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who had died in March the same year. Reacting to the representations, both cultural experts Dr Gugu Mazibuko and Professor Sihawu Ngubane expressed their shock. They said Prince Mbonisi was westernising the long-standing African culture that the king was born, not appointed.

Ngubane said what the legal team said was totally against this long-standing tradition through which many traditional leaders were in their positions. He said he was totally against the idea and that Prince Mbonisi was confusing the affirmations process with the appointed process.

“The prince is wrong. After the death of inkosi or the king, the family meet to affirm what was already known, since a son that would take over was known from birth. The meeting is called for simple affirmation before the son would begin ruling, so what they said was wrong,” said Ngubane.

Dr Mazibuko also scoffed at the representation, saying that it was an attempt to westernise or democratise the African traditional leadership. She said if that were to happen, it would kill the essence of traditional leadership, because it would now mean that the king would be elected to the position – because if family members do not agree with one name, it will mean they have to vote.

“I'm shocked to hear of such representation in a traditional dispute. This is un-African and it is a westernisation of our African traditional systems of appointing kings and amakhosi, which would kill the essence of ubukhosi. I wish to make a clarion call to the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa and National House of Traditional Leaders to establish the African Traditional Court, which will sit for all traditional disputes such as this one,” said Mazibuko.

She added that trying to resolve kingship issues using the South African Constitution was not helping the situation, instead it caused more problems because the losing side refused to recognise that particular king and started calling him ‘king of the court’ or ‘judge’s king’, since he was installed through western laws.

Mazibuko added that calling a family meeting was also a way of complying with the government act which stipulates that the family must appoint the king or inkosi.

Prince Mbonisi’s legal team, as an applicant in the matter, was responding to the representations made by legal teams of President Cyril Ramaphosa and King Misuzulu, who in their closing arguments on Tuesday said all processes were mere formalities, since the king was born. The teams said King Misuzulu was not appointed on the basis of the May 14, 2021 meeting, but became a king soon after the death of his father, because of the long-standing tradition that a wife whose lobola was paid by the nation was the one that gives birth to the successor.

She added that King Misuzulu’s chances of succeeding his father were bolstered by the fact that her mother was of royal blood. The late king’s mother, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, was a daughter of the late Eswatini king Sobhuza II, and sister to the current Eswatini monarch, King Mswati III.

Judgment was reserved. Next week all parties will have to make their additional submissions to respond to Prince Simakade’s draft order, which his legal team proposed to Judge Norman Davis to consider when making his ruling.

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