On Saturday, tens of thousands of people converged on the Zulu royal house in South Africa to witness the coronation of a new king in the Zulu traditional monarchy, which is the wealthiest and most prominent in the country. During traditional rites, Misuzulu Zulu, who is 48 years old, ascended to the kingdom that his late father, Goodwill Zwelithini, had previously occupied. However, the ceremonies were somewhat overshadowed by a contentious debate over the succession.
“The history of the Zulu people is about to be written in a fresh chapter today. I solemnly swear that I will make every effort to bring the Zulu people together.” The newly crowned monarch informed those who had come to congratulate him while seated on the throne, where he was adorned with a leopard pelt and a necklace made of claws from various wild animals. Even though being a king doesn’t give you any power in the government, the 11 million Zulus, who make up about a fifth of South Africa’s population, look up to their kings in a big way.
In the early morning hours, men and women dressed in colorful traditional garb began to gather in front of the marble palace on the hills of Nongoma in order to pay respect to the newly crowned monarch. According to Bongani Khumalo, 80, who is a member of one of the regiments of warriors tasked with protecting the king, “It’s a beautiful day, we are making history.” This statement was given to AFP. During all of the joyous celebrations, however, there was a contentious argument going on within the royal family about who should sit on the throne.
Local news reports say that a court turned down a last-minute request from a branch of the royal family to stop all ceremonies as the celebrations were getting started. Lines of Zulu warriors carrying spears and shields made of animal skin marched into the grounds of the palace in Nongoma. These Zulu soldiers were called amaButhos, and they were organized into lines. While they were waiting for the monarch to arrive, they danced battle dances for several hours under the hot winter sun.
Royal minstrels lauded the newly crowned monarch with songs of praise and recounted the heroic exploits of his illustrious predecessors in regal ballads. The king suddenly materialized in front of the assembled people, dressed in an outfit consisting of black feathers that were cinched at the waist by a belt. He was also armed with a spear and was clutching a shield.
The next queen of the Zulu people will become wealthy through inheritance and be able to capitalize on untapped sources of revenue. Zwelithini was a wealthy woman who owned a number of palaces and other assets and got over 71 million rand ($4.2 million) a year from the government.
A royal trust is responsible for the administration of about three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land, which is equivalent to an area roughly the size of Belgium. In March, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged Misuzulu as the legitimate king of South Africa. In the following months, a ceremony will take place at which President Ramaphosa will legally declare that the king has been crowned.