South Africa’s new Zulu King was formally declared the head of the country’s most influential traditional monarchy at a colorful ceremony presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday.
Ramaphosa was to hand over the giant framed certificate to formally recognize the 48-year-old new ruler Misuzulu Zulu before tens of thousands of people in colourful regalia gathered at a huge soccer stadium in the coastal city of Durban.
“Our king, is indeed officially the King of the Zulu nation and the only king of the Zulu nation,” said Ramaphosa to loud applause from those gathered to fete the new ruler.
Saturday’s official coronation of the ruler of the country’s richest monarchy comes after a year of bitter feuding over the royal succession that has spilled into the courts.
Misuzulu Zulu ascended the throne once held by his late father, Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 – after more than 50 years on the throne.
The crowning which followed a traditional coronation ceremony in August is the first South Africa has witnessed in more than half a century.
“This historic moment only comes once in a lifetime, many of us will never see this historic moment again,” said Ramaphosa.
Although the title of king does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million people.
Amabutho, or royal regiments, clad in traditional skirts, faux leopard skin tops, and carrying shields and sticks chanted songs of praise for their king.
Singing and blowing whistles as they slowly glided around the pitch, women wore broad-brimmed Zulu hats and traditional wraps.
Young girls in equally brightly colored pleated skirts and beads excitedly danced and ululated in the 85,000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium – which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.
‘Great day for’ Zulus
Londolo Zungu, 49, in traditional Zulu attire was among the women at the party. “We are very happy, more than happy, we are supporting the king 100%,” she told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Khaya Ndwandwe, a Zulu historian, said at the stadium that recognition of the new king by the government as “the real king of the Zulu people” means “now the king will be more than protected.”
“It’s a great day for the Zulu nation. It’s a day of great joy for the Zulu people, for everybody,” said Ndwandwe.
The ceremony was given rolling live coverage on all of South Africa’s largest television stations and media outlets.
A long gray feather stuck out from the king’s hair, while a bunch of black feathers was arranged on the back of his head as he sat on a throne covered in leopard skin.
Head of the Anglican church in South Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba dabbed holy oil on the king’s hands, face and head as crowds looked on.
“As you embark upon your reign as king of the nation that is recognized internationally as one of the greatest in Africa, I believe you are being called to step up and emulate the highest traditions of your ancestors,” said Makgoba.
Among the delegates was King Mswati III of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, who was also an uncle to the new Zulu king.
Two of South Africa’s ex-presidents, Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, were also present.
Zulu kings are descendants of King Shaka, the 19th-century leader still revered for having united a large swathe of the country as the Zulu nation, which fought bloody battles against the British colonisers.
King Zwelithini died after more than 50 years in charge, leaving six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will.
The queen however died suddenly a month after Zwelithini, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king – a development that did not go down well with other family members.
The new monarch’s first name means “strengthening the Zulus” but his path to the crown has not been smooth.