A South African court on Monday ruled that the South African Government’s recognition of the King of the Zulu nation last year was unlawful, potentially setting off a new succession battle.
The Pretoria High Court ordered President Cyril Ramaphosa to set up an inquiry to probe whether the tumultuous accession of King Misuzulu Zulu was done in line with customary laws.
Following the death of his father, Misuzulu Zulu, 49, was named in 2021 as monarch for the more than 10 million Zulu people living in South Africa.
His traditional coronation had to wait 15 months until August 2022, following bitter feuding over the royal succession.
Misuzulu Zulu took over from Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 after a reign of more than 50 years.
Misuzulu Zulu’s older brother, Prince Simakade, sought the ruling, which said the presidential recognition of the Zulu king “was unlawful and invalid and the recognition decision is hereby set aside.”
At a mega party in October 2022, Ramaphosa gave Misuzulu Zulu a giant framed certificate officially recognising him as ruler of the country’s richest and most influential traditional monarchy.
King Zwelithini left six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzulu Zulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, whom he designated as regent in his will.
But the queen died suddenly a month after her husband, leaving a will naming Misuzulu Zulu as king.
Zwelithini’s first wife claimed to be the only legitimate spouse but she failed to get a court order stopping the coronation of the man whose name means “to strengthen the Zulu people”.
Before Ramaphosa’s state ceremony, Zwelithini’s eldest son, who was born out of wedlock, filed an emergency lawsuit claiming he was the rightful heir.
Brothers of Zwelithini also claimed the throne for another contender.
South Africa’s constitution recognises traditional rulers and chiefs and they wield significant moral authority.
In July, rumours circulated that Misuzulu Zulu had been poisoned after the sudden death of a close adviser who died after ingesting a toxic substance. The king denied the claims.