Zulu royal succession battle goes before South African court

FILE PHOTO: Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini arrives to hear Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader's birth, in Johannesburg, South Africa July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

One of the six widows of South Africa’s Zulu king launched a legal succession bid Tuesday arguing that she is the monarch’s only legitimate widow as they had a civil marriage, while he wed his five other wives only according to traditional rites.

KWADUKUZA, SOUTH AFRICA – SEPTEMBER 24: The late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is seen during Heritage Day celebrations on September 24, 2019. /Gallo Images

King Goodwill Zwelithini died in March 2021 at age 72 after 50 years on the throne, leaving behind his six wives and at least 28 children.

In his will, he had named his third wife, Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini, as regent of the more than 11 million Zulus who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population.

But Shiyiwe died suddenly a month after the king, leaving a will designating their 47-year-old son, Misuzulu Zulu to ascend to the throne.

The coronation has yet to take place, and Misuzulu did not attend Tuesday’s hearing.

A lawyer for Queen Sibongile Dlamini, the king’s first wife who is contesting Misuzulu’s right to the throne, asked the court whether a civil marriage precludes customary marriage.

Judge Isaac Madondo, acknowledged that the case presented “not only a legal issue (but also concerned) the conflict of law between common law and custom law”.

The first queen is also seeking half of the royal inheritance before the court in Pietermaritzburg, capital of South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

The Zulu king, who had no executive power but wielded great moral influence over his subjects, owned thousands of hectares of land as well as several palaces and other properties.

Some Zulus say royal matters have no business going before a court.

Queen Sibongile’s two daughters, Princesses Ntombizosuthu and Ntandoyenkosi, are also contesting the validity of the will.

They say a handwriting analysis determined that the signature was forged.

The hearing is expected to resume on Wednesday.