Coronation with feather headdress and certificate

Coronation with feather headdress and certificate

Die Zulus in South Africa have a new king. Tens of thousands of people gathered at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, on Saturday to celebrate the ‘coronation’ of King Misuzulu KaZwelithini, the ninth Zulu king. Many had appeared in costume with skins, feather headdresses, spears and shields. Large crowds gathered outside the stadium and town for the public viewing. TV stations broadcast the hour-long spectacle live with dances, music and prayers. At the climax, President Cyril Ramaphosa presented the 48-year-old monarch with a certificate to officially confirm him in his role. The traditional and, from the point of view of many Zulus, decisive part of the assumption of power had already taken place in August in the royal palace of KwaKhangelamankengane. There various rites ensured the recognition of the king by the ancestors, now the recognition by the government followed.

Claudia Bröll

Political correspondent for Africa based in Cape Town.

Until now, most of the approximately eleven million Zulus have only known one king. The last so-called coronation goes back more than half a century. In 1971, under the apartheid government, Misuzulus’ father, Goodwill Zwelithini, was proclaimed monarch. Television footage from the time shows a visibly moved young man in the pouring rain. King Goodwill died last year at the age of 72 from a corona infection, he suffered from diabetes. Shortly thereafter, Queen Mantfombi, one of his wives, who had succeeded him, also died.

However, the new Zulu king has many opponents. Since the death of the former king, a dispute has raged in the royal family. It’s about the successor and ultimately about money. Shortly before the ceremony on Saturday, King Goodwill’s eldest son was again in court. Before that, he had demonstratively made himself king in a ceremony of his own. Other princes also made claims. The Zulu royal family is so divided that members gathered in different places on the first anniversary of the former king’s death.

King Goodwill had six wives and 28 children. There was already quarreling about Queen Mantfombi’s move up. The suspicion of a forgery made the rounds, the ranking of the wives was unclear. Some members of the royal family have argued that Queen Mantfombi is not a Zulu at all, but is from Swaziland. Finally, in March of this year, the President set the record straight by officially designating Misuzulu as the legitimate new king. The role of traditional rulers is clearly defined in South Africa’s constitution. They can get involved at the “local level in matters affecting local communities”. They have no direct political influence. However, the previous Zulu king was a prominent and widely respected figure within his ethnic group – the largest in the country. Former President Jacob Zuma in particular celebrated the Zulu traditions extensively, fueled the pride of the Zulu in their “nation” and thus won Zulus for the ruling party African National Congress. The first Zulu king was the legendary warrior Shaka, after whom Durban Airport is named. The traditional royal families – in addition to the Zulu there are six others – are not without controversy. The costs for taxpayers and the lavish lifestyle of the families repeatedly lead to criticism. King Goodwill received around four million dollars a year from the state budget.

On Saturday, however, enthusiasm for the monarchy prevailed. King Mswati III, the absolutist king of Swaziland, spoke of the “sun rising over the Zulu nation”. King Misuzulu – his name means “strengthen the Zulus” – promised to protect Zulus culture. He also wants to work for peace and reconciliation, first “among the Zulu, but also among all South Africans, Africans and then in the rest of the world”.

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