South Africa: Battle Royale in the Zulu Nation Succession

His Royal Highness Prince Misuzulu Sinqobile kaZwelithini has been named the King of the Zulus.

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, 68, was buried at the crack of dawn on Thursday May 6, at a secret location in accordance with Zulu royal practices. But this has not given any rest to the Zulu nation.

Her reign as the Zulu monarch queen regent might have lasted just 36 days, but has turned out to be as controversial as any royal succession could be, with alleged assassination claims within the royal house. As the Great Wife to the late King Goodwill Zwelithini who died earlier in March this year, her son Prince Misuzulu Zulu, the oldest surviving son of the king, was the heir apparent to the Zulu throne.

But suspicion that Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu could have been poisoned which led to her death on April 29, has added a twist to the Zulu monarch succession battle. Queen Mantfombi had been appointed interim leader of the Zulu nation following the death of King Zwelithini, awaiting the coronation of the permanent king, her son Prince Misuzulu Zulu.

But warring factions, one reportedly led by the prime minister to the Zulu Nation and monarch, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and other factions led by some of the late king's siblings as well as his first wife, Queen Sibongile Dlamini (not related to the late queen regent Mantfombi), are threatening to cause anarchy in the kingdom.

Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu was the sister of Africa's only absolute monarch, King Mswati III of eSwatini. Queen Sibongile Dlamini and her daughters have approached the courts to contest the validity of the late King Zwelithini's will, alleging that it was tampered with and his signature forged. The will would have identified the next king. Queen Sibongile Dlamini was married in community of property custom and is claiming half of the estate of the late king.

Factions

On the other side, Princess Thembi Ndlovu, sister to the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and her other sibling, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, have their own case in court too. Prince Mbonisi Zulu alleges that his name was mentioned to act as the regent, during a royal meeting soon after the king's death, but the idea was shot down by Queen Mantfombi who was understood to be enjoying the backing of Prince Buthelezi.

When Queen Mantfombi was married in 1977, a condition was placed by her Swati House of Dlamini royal family that King Zwelithini should make her his Great Wife, making her son Prince Misuzulu Zulu a strong candidate to the throne.

And exactly because of this, a senior member of the royal family, Princess Nondumiso Zulu, is advocating for Prince Misuzulu Zulu to be crowned king.

She argues that since his mother Queen Mantfombi enjoyed superior marital status to Queen Dlamini as a princess of the eSwatini Kingdom, "We must accept that once a princess from another royal house marries into your house, she takes over. It was us who accepted that," said Princess Nondumiso.

"The next king should come from the house of the previous king, so there is only one house of the king. In this case, KwaKhangelamankengane is that house. "You know that it would have been disastrous to appoint a brother of the king to act because the late king knew how difficult it was when his father acted and resisted when he had to vacate the throne."

These cracks in the royal family have prepared the stage for a potentially nasty confrontation in the succession issue. "It is not very pleasant that while we grieving that one should in addition have all these ructions that are taking place," Prince Buthelezi said as tensions flared this week.

The cause of the Queen Mantfombi's death has not yet been made public amid reports that traces of poison were found in her liver. Allegations that Queen Mantfombi was poisoned gained traction this week. Fingers pointed at Princess Thembi and her brother Prince Mbonisi as the poisoning masterminds, with the source of the accusations said to be Prince Buthelezi who has however, vehemently denied ever saying the late Queen was poisoned.

Princess Thembi took aim at Prince Buthelezi, alleging that he had been excluding them from some royal meetings and they decided to hold their own without his presence.

"People think that we are murderers since it is said the Queen [Mantfombi] was poisoned," Princess Thembi said during an impromptu press conference on Monday. "People who are said to be behind this is me and this brother of mine [Prince Mbonisi] because we had a meeting that started at KwaKhethomthandayo palace.

"The reason why we decided not to invite the Prince [Buthelezi] to the meeting is that he doesn't give us space to freely discuss matters. He would belittle you, make you feel like a toddler in front of people and shoot you down if you have a view he does not like. So we decided to meet on our own."

King Zwelithini's siblings, who have earned themselves the nickname "Royal Rebels," are now pushing for Prince Buthelezi to vacate his position as the Zulu nation and monarch traditional prime minister. The next few months will be hectic as the fight for the Zulu King's throne rages on.

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