South Africa’s presidency announced on Wednesday, December 13, that President Cyril Ramaphosa will appeal a court decision that nullified his official recognition of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini as the Zulu nation’s king. The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on Monday that Ramaphosa violated due process by not establishing an investigating panel when a dispute over the throne emerged, as required by the Leadership Act of 2019.

King Misuzulu assumed the Zulu throne in 2021 after the passing of his father and regent mother, King Goodwill Zwelithini. Despite receiving official recognition from President Ramaphosa in October the following year, his traditional coronation faced a 15-month delay due to family disagreements over succession. The court has now instructed the president to appoint an investigating committee of Zulu royal experts to determine the legitimate heir to the throne, emphasizing that King Misuzulu remains the identified heir.

This legal development stems from a dispute within the royal family, with Misuzulu’s half-brother, Prince Simakade Zulu, claiming entitlement to the throne. A previous court challenge to Misuzulu’s ascension, launched in March 2022 in the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court, was dismissed, affirming his rightful position according to customary law.

The succession issue holds substantial significance beyond symbolic power, as King Misuzulu inherited nearly 30,000 square kilometers of land, equivalent to the area of Belgium, managed by a trust generating revenues for him. With approximately 10 million South Africans identifying as Zulus, the Zulu nation constitutes the country’s largest ethnic group, with the monarch enjoying constitutional recognition. Although lacking executive powers, the king wields considerable moral authority.

 

Piers Potter

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