05 November 2021 Volume :9 Issue :47

Dr Killie Campbell Lecture Explores the Historical Robustness of the Zulu Royal Succession

Dr Killie Campbell Lecture Explores the Historical Robustness of the Zulu Royal Succession
Ms Shalo Mbatha (left) and Ms Mbalenhle Zulu.

UKZN and the Campbell Collections hosted the 2021 Dr Killie Campbell Annual Lecture in a webinar on The Zulu Royal Succession: The Historical Robustness of the Processes and Systems.

Guest speaker Ms Shalo Mbatha a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Zululand provided background on the first succession murder recorded in 1781 and highlighted that the current dispute in the royal family is not something new.

Mbatha related how, following King Senzangakhona’s passing in 1816, Prince Sigujana was elected king even though he was born from the eighth wife and was the fifth son - points which are all relevant to the current royal succession dispute - which shows that the first-born son does not have automatic claim to the throne.

She highlighted the succession murder of King Shaka who was killed by his half-brother and relatives in 1828; and noted that the first Zulu civil war was caused by the dispute that ensued over the coveted throne between Cetshwayo and his brother Mbuyazi, the sons of King Mpande. According to Mbatha, Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi were the sons of King Shaka.

Mbatha noted that King Dinuzulu was the first Zulu king to appoint his successor, Prince Maphumzana in a will. Following King Maphumzana’s death in 1933, disputes ensued for years about the rightful heir to the throne which resulted in the king’s brother Prince Mshiyeni being appointed.

In 1944, Queen Mathathela - the first wife of former King Maphumzana - produced a will that stated that her first-born son, Prince Bhekuzulu, should be king. Similar to the current situation, the will was contested and the Queen took the matter to court for the royal document to be verified, another first for the Zulu kingdom.

King Bhekuzulu, who appointed his heir as soon as he laid claim to the crown in order to avoid any future conflict, informed his Council that Prince Zwelithini would be crowned king. King Bhekuzulu died when Prince Zwelithini was too young to rule, which resulted in his uncle, Prince Mcwayizeni becoming regent. However, he refused to hand over the throne to the legitimate crown prince when he was ready to rule.

Mbatha noted that disputes over this matter became a topical issue across the nation with Ilanga newspaper and Radio Zulu covering the matter. She added that Prince Zwelithini forcefully reclaimed his throne at the age of 21 and was officially installed on 3 December 1971.

King Zwelithini, who passed away in March this year, left a will entrusting his principal wife Queen Mantfombi with his estate and the appointment of the next king - a decision which was met with court injunctions from some royal family members.

The royal feud made national headlines and was tragically followed by the passing of the Queen 49 days after the king’s demise. History is repeating itself, as Queen Mantfombi stated in her will that her first-born son Prince Misuzulu should be the next king. Clashes between royal family members continue, while Prince Misuzulu carries out his duties as the new king and awaits his coronation date.

In conclusion, Mbatha said that, while controversy has always followed the Zulu throne, colonial laws have always been unfit to preside over royal matters due to the lack of training and understanding of African languages, culture and customs.

Said Mbatha: ‘In finding resolutions, the robust systems of consensus and common ground within the royal family may seem to be quarrels or falling outs but they are in fact a discussion as there is no formula to be followed. As seen in Zulu history, it is not automatic who is crowned and this is to mitigate unforeseen circumstances.

‘Members of the royal family know that even though they may not be king, it doesn’t mean that they are not valued. They remain respected and loved for being aMazinyane eSilo - the king’s children.’

UKZN librarian, Ms Mbalenhle Zulu facilitated the question and answer session.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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