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Contesting kingship and succession is nothing new

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Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA) – On Saturday, August 20, 2022, Misuzulu, the successor of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, takes the final steps on this historic day for the Zulu nation as he performs the last ritual of entering the sacred royal kraal at KwaKhangalemankengane palace in Nongoma, to become King Misuzulu kaZwelithini. This means that he has completed all the rituals for him to fully occupy the throne. What is left now is the formality of coronation which will take place in Durban next month.

By Dr Gugu Mazibuko

The significance of ukungena esibayeni (entering the sacred kraal) by the King of amaZulu is one of the most important rituals, as well as customs and traditions because it is the occasion when a king is introduced to the ancestors of the nation as the person succeeding the late king, in this case, King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The process of ukungena esibayeni is the final sacred ritual that prepares the king to lead the nation because soon after that the king will have to pledge to the nation how he is going to lead them and what he is expecting from his people. He will also pledge with amakhosi (chiefs) to work with them, omama (mothers), amabutho (regiments) and maidens. They also pledge loyalty to the king when they give the salutation “Wena weNdlovu, Bayede!” That is how they respond, confirming to the king that they support him.

After ukungena esibayeni the next leg of coronation is the issuing of the certificate by the president, Cyril Ramaphosa. This is something that was last witnessed in 1971 during the coronation of the late Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelithini. This is important because now that Misuzulu is the king of the Zulus, his kingship is recognised and regulated by the Khoisan and Traditional Leadership Act of South Africa. Therefore the certificate must be issued publicly. It is just a formality by the government.

All the rituals, customs and traditions have been done. For those challenging him for the throne – I do not want to speak on their behalf – it is clear to everyone who witnessed last Saturday’s proceedings and ceremony that indeed Misuzulu is the king of AmaZulu. People came in their numbers, affirming that they receive him, they accept him, they will abide by his rule and pledge to be his subjects. It does not have to be something that they write down, but coming out in numbers in support of the ceremony showed even a child that Misuzulu is supported, accepted and recognised by the nation. Even amakhosi who came from outside the borders, as far as Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, and delegations from different corners of the world, showed that they support Misuzulu as the king.

King Misuzulu kaZwelithini will manage the affairs of the Zulu nation. If you listened to his speech last Saturday you would have noticed that he is the most humble king. He is a brave king, he is a king with a vision who understands clearly what is expected of him and working with amakhosi. He also mentioned the importance of peace and unity that we are all expecting to hear because we know there are issues in the royal family. But these issues also affect the nation. Because as king, he is the head of the AmaZulu nation. He is also the head of the royal family. The nation will stand behind the king. What happened last Saturday showed exactly that this is the people’s king.

The issue of succession has always been challenged. One can go as far back as King Senzangakhona to see that it is so. When Senzangakhona was about to ascend to the throne there were squabbles in the royal family because he was young and there were other elder brothers like Mkhazana as well as Sojiyisa. They were not happy at all. But eventually, he took the throne.

King Shaka too. But at that time assassination played a part in proceedings. Bhakuza, who should have ascended to the throne, was killed, Sgujana was killed and Shaka took over the reins of the Zulu nation. This is not new or something that surprises us. As an oral society, such stories were told from generation to generation.

* Mazibuko is a Cultural expert from the University of KwaZulu-Natal