KWANONGOMA, South Africa — South Africa’s ethnic Zulu nation is preparing to host a coronation event for its new traditional king amid internal divisions that threaten to tear the royal family apart.
King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, a son of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini who died in March last year, will undergo the traditional ritual known as ukungena esibayeni (entering the royal village) on Saturday for his installation as the new leader of the Zulu nation to mark.
The Zulus ethnic group is the largest in South Africa with more than 12 million people living mainly in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Zulu nation is historically recognized as having fiercely resisted British colonialism under King Shaka Zulu from 1816 to 1828.
The ceremony is expected to be attended by thousands of Zulu people, including members of the royal family, traditional leaders of other ethnic groups and members of the Zulu nation.
It will continue despite challenges from some members of the royal family who insist that Misuzulu is not the rightful heir to the throne.
Misuzulu is the eldest son of Zwelithini with his third wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, who is said to enjoy exalted status among his six wives because she was born of the royal house of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa.
Queen Dlamini-Zulu held the title of Regent of the Zulu Nation after her husband’s death, but died about a month later, naming her eldest son Misuzulu as the successor in her will.
However, some members of the royal family oppose Misuzulu as the successor and instead recognize his eldest brother, Simagade Zulu ka Zwelithini, as the rightful heir.
Last weekend, the rival family faction held the ukungena esibayeni ceremony for Simagade, although it was not recognized by the rest of the royal family elders who support Misuzulu as the rightful king.
To further confuse the situation, Zwelithini’s three brothers held a press conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, where they announced another of their brothers, Buzabazi kaZwelithini, as their favorite heir to the throne.
The late king reportedly fathered 28 children with his six wives.
The South African government recognizes Misuzulu as the rightful heir to the throne and will grant him a certificate of recognition at a date yet to be determined.
The position of king of the Zulu nation is an influential position in KwaZulu-Natal province as the custodian of the ethnic group’s traditional customs.
The king also exercises control over vast tracts of land, estimated at 30% of KwaZulu-Natal or 10,810 square miles, through the Ingonyama Trust of which he is the sole trustee.
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