Thousands of people gathered at South Africa’s Zulu Royal Palace on Saturday to witness the coronation of the new king of the country’s richest and most influential traditional monarchy.
Misuzur Zulu, 47, once ascended the throne during a traditional ceremony when his late father, Goodwill Zwericini, ascended to the throne, but the ceremony was partially disrupted by bitter succession battles. The shadow has faded.
“Today the Zulu begin a new chapter,” the new sovereign told well-wishers from a large white marquee podium, wearing traditional leopard skin and a necklace of predator claws.
“I promise to work to unite the Zulu people.”
Although the title of king does not confer executive power, the monarch wields great moral influence over the more than 11 million Zulus, who make up almost one-fifth of South Africa’s population.
From early morning, men and women in colorful traditional costumes began to gather outside the marble palace on Nongoma Hill to honor the new monarch.
“Today is a great day. We are making history,” Bongani Khumalo, 80, a member of the King’s Guard Regiment, told AFP.
During the festivities, however, a bitter family dispute over the throne escalated.
As the celebrations began, local media reported that an 11-hour legal appeal to block all ceremonies from the royal branch was rejected by the court.
In Nongoma, columns of Zulu warriors, known as amaButhos, carrying spears and animal-skin shields marched through the palace grounds.
For hours they performed war dances under the warm winter sun, waiting for the king to appear.
Early on Friday night, Misuzur entered the palace’s “cow kraal” to participate in a secret ceremony designed to introduce the new monarch to his ancestors.
During the day, the women – some bare-breasted, some in pleated skirts and beaded belts, some covered in cloth with portraits of sovereigns – sang. and danced.
Royal bards praised the new king and told the stories of his legendary ancestors.
Suddenly, a king appeared before the crowd, wearing a black feathered robe waisted with a belt and a spear and carrying a shield.
He joined the ranks of warriors who swore allegiance to their new leader.
“There is our king!” exclaimed 29-year-old Sinenhlanhla Msweli, who was present.
– Domestic dispute –
Zulu kings are descendants of 19th-century leader King Shaka. King Shaka is still revered for uniting large swaths of the country as the Zulus who fought bloody battles against the British colonizers.
The new monarch’s name means ‘strengthen the Zulu’, but his road to the throne was not smooth.
King Zwericini, who died last March after reigning for 50 years, left behind six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzul is the eldest son of his third wife whom Zwericini named regent in his will.
However, the Queen died suddenly a month later, leaving behind a will appointing Mizuru as the next king.
The late king’s first wife, Queen Sibongire Dlamini, endorsed her son, Prince Shimakade Zulu, as her rightful successor.
Some of the late king’s brothers have listed the third prince as a candidate for the throne.
Queen Sibongir’s legal bid to challenge her succession to the throne was reinstated on Friday.
But on Saturday, a Pietermaritzburg court rejected the two daughters’ urgent motion to stop all ceremonies.
“Anyone in the Zulu who knows the traditions knows who the king is,” said Temba Fakazi, an adviser to the former ruler who supports Misuzul.
The next Zulu monarch will inherit the fortune and have a rich source of income.
Zwerisini received about R71 million ($4.2 million) a year from the government and owned several palaces and other properties.
The Royal Trust manages nearly 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land. This is about the size of Belgium.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who recognized Misuzul as the rightful king in March, plans to officially recognize the coronation at a ceremony in the coming months.