If the royal family follows the Zulu tradition without ignoring or amending any rules the nation might wait for a decade to get their rightful monarch as he is still only 10- years-old writes Masoka Dube

ACCORDING to Zulu tradition the name of a successor to the departed monarch remains a secret until just before the day of his coronation.

One of the reasons for this is to allow the royal family to perform the rituals that precede the crowning of the new king and also to protect him from being attacked by enemies of the royal family. 

As the royal family is currently preparing to install a successor to the fallen monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu who was given a rousing send-off on Wednesday night, but it is not clear who will take over the crown. 

Amabutho lead the funeral procession for their King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu. Photo: Mukurukuru Media

The 72-year-old Zulu’s longest-serving leader took his final bow last week in hospital after a long illness diagnosed as sugar diabetes and complications with the corona virus.

Even though the royal family has not yet announced His Majesty’s successor, it is well known that the new monarch must be one of his first wife’s children.

This means that King Mswati III’s nephew, Prince Misuzulu Zulu might take over as his mother Princes Mantfombi Dlamini is the king’s first wife.

Prince Zulu is currently studying for a degree in International Studies in Florida, while his half-brother, Prince Lethukuthula who was working in the South African Navy was another expected successor. He passed away last year.

However, some experts believe that Dlamini’s child cannot be a leader because his mother is not of Zulu origin.  It is believed that in Zulu culture, a person who should replace the monarch must be someone of  pure Zulu blood.

KwaZulu Natal born Dr Dlalifa Ngobese, a Historian and Heritage expert from the University of Mpumalanga says the nation might have to wait for more than 10 years to get their rightful king, should the royal family decide to follow tradition without breaking any rules.

 “The solution to this is to install an interim king, who will rule until the king is old and ready to rule his people. The interim king is not chosen from the children of the king, but from the family of the king,” says Ngobese.

However, Isaac Mthethwa, a member of the Oral History Association of South Africa, who is specialising in traditional leadership and indigenous knowledge, has a different view.

Mthethwa says the Zulu nation does things differently from other nations when it comes to the issue of kingship succession as they elect and train a person who will succeed His Majesty, while he is still alive to avoid confusion.

He says whatever problem may arise on a succession issue it will not have a serious negative impact. 

“I believe that the upcoming monarch will not have a problem because he will find a good foundation. However, he might find it difficult to fit in to the shoes of the great monarch that had departed to the land of the Gods. Remember, King Zwelithini has spent more than three decades, so it is not easy to replace that kind of a person,” says Mthethwa.

When his father, Cyprian Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe ka Solomon, ruled the Zulu nation from 1948 until he died in 1968, serious fighting ensued between the royal family members and those who were opposing that the then 18-year-old Zwelithini be crowned.

As there was fear that he could be killed before taking over the throne, his family took him into exile in Limpopo province, where he spent some time.  From 1968 until 1971, the Zulu nation did not have a king until King Zwelithini returned from exile.

Whoever takes over the kingship must be strong enough because the late monarch passed on while he was fighting wars such as the protection of Ingwenyama Trust, which is an entity that protects and oversees the Zulu people’s land.

King Zwelithini and other local chiefs had been fighting a good fight to protect the trust. In 2018, they openly opposed the government recommendation that wanted him to hand over the land to the Department of Rural Development and land Reform.

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