South Africa’s love affair with King Misuzulu

Zulu King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini in August 2022

Zulu King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini in August 2022

South Africans are usually not huge followers of royalty, however the forthcoming official coronation of the brand new Zulu king has the nation transfixed – and is a watershed second in its historical past.

The occasion will mark loads of firsts for the nation.

King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, 49, will likely be formally acknowledged as monarch by President Cyril Ramaphosa – the primary time a black president has been concerned in a Zulu coronation.

Will probably be the primary Zulu coronation since South Africa turned a democracy in 1994. It’s going to additionally lastly put an finish to the fierce household feud that dogged his succession to the throne – an embarrassing battle performed out in public.

The final coronation passed off on a wet day again in 1971 beneath the apartheid authorities, when King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu was topped.

Then, as now, South Africa’s conventional management was regulated by authorities. However the white-minority authorities on the time anticipated the younger monarch to put on Western apparel.

He attended the occasion in a swimsuit – a leopard pores and skin sash the one nod to Zulu couture.

Because the crowds collect on the Mabhida Stadium within the coastal metropolis of Durban on Saturday for his son’s government-backed coronation, they are going to be hoping for a extra ostentatious show of Zulu tradition when President Ramaphosa arms over the certificates that endorses Misuzulu because the ninth Zulu king.

“It is a joyous event, the start of a brand new period,” explains Sihawukele Ngubane, a professor of African languages on the College of KwaZulu-Natal and skilled on Zulu tradition.

“The apartheid-era authorities bestowed the certificates to the king again then. This time we count on our king to put on his conventional garb as a result of we now dwell in a democracy and there is completely no obligation for his majesty to put on British-inspired clothes.”

In one other first, the coronation goes to be broadcast dwell on nationwide tv.

A fifth of South Africa’s inhabitants is Zulu – the nation’s largest ethnic group -and its monarchy has a yearly taxpayer-funded finances of greater than $3.6 (£3.2m).

It’s the cash that tends to place South Africans off royalty – given the nation has eight monarchs formally recognised by the federal government, all funded by taxpayers.

Many query the seemingly lavish lives that a few of the conventional leaders lead, with luxurious automobiles and enormous properties.

Saturday’s state coronation comes two months after a conventional one which passed off for King Misuzulu at KwaKhangelamankengane Palace in KwaZulu-Natal province – with festivities attended by hundreds of individuals.

The Zulu royal family receives one of many greatest finances allocations, although KwaZulu-Natal’s provincial authorities states that this cash is not only spent on the household – it additionally covers employees salaries, upkeep of palaces and programmes that cope with conventional ceremonies and social cohesion.

Political events throughout the divide have welcomed the brand new king, together with the Financial Freedom Fighters, led by controversial politician Julius Malema. The Zulu Inkatha Freedom Occasion says it has put apart its distinction with the governing African Nationwide Congress (ANC) forward of the occasion.

Solely the South African Communist Occasion appears sad, its members plan to picket the occasion to boost consciousness in regards to the political state of affairs in neighbouring Eswatini, as its absolute monarch, King Mswati III, is attending the coronation of King Misuzulu, his nephew.

The media fanfare that adopted the succession saga has introduced King Misuzulu to the eye of the South African nation – and endeared him to some.

He trended on social media as younger South Africans felt they might determine with him, casually teasing him when he fluffed his first speech.

He made it a number of months after his father had died and earlier than his official succession had been resolved. It was a strong enchantment to individuals in KwaZulu-Natal to cease the looting and riots that broke out in July 2021 following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, a proud Zulu, for contempt of courtroom.

It was the worst violence the nation had witnessed for the reason that finish of apartheid, however as he tried to learn the speech in Zulu, he struggled and he ended up studying it far more fluently in English.

For Prof Ngubane, it exhibits that though King Misuzulu could solely maintain a ceremonial place, he’s thought-about somebody that many look as much as as an ethical authority.

“In Zulu we are saying: ‘Umlomo ongathethi manga’, which implies ‘What the king says goes’.”

And when he oversaw final month’s Reed Dance – a ceremony of passage ceremony for teenage women – the monarch spoke out in opposition to gender violence in a rustic that has one of many world’s highest fee of rapes and sexual assaults.

Girls at a Zulu Reed Dance ceremony - archive shot

The Reed Dance is a ceremony of passage for younger Zulu girls and teenage women

“Violence in opposition to girls and youngsters is a humiliation to our nation. A girl is to be revered and guarded. We should do higher as males,” he mentioned.

On the side-lines of these rehearsing for the Durban coronation, some younger girls inform us why the occasion means a lot to their era.

“We’re excited to attend to point out him that we’re 100% behind him as king,” certainly one of them says.

Who’s Misuzulu ka Zwelithini?

  • Born on 23 September 1974 in Kwahlabisa

  • Educated privately at St Charles Faculty in Pietermaritzburg

  • Studied at Jacksonville College within the US, the place he lived for a number of years

  • Married to 2 wives, with three sons

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