President Cyril Ramaphosa officially recognized South Africa’s new Zulu king, Misuzulu Kazuilitheni, as head of the country’s most influential traditional monarchy at the first Zulu coronation since 1971.
A ceremony honoring the new king, who has vowed to unite his nation and protect traditions, ends the dispute over the succession to the throne.
“Our king is already officially the king of the Zulu nation and the sole king of the Zulu nation,” Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
The leader of South Africa’s largest ethnic group was crowned in August but needed official Ramaphosa recognition to gain full access to government resources and support.
In March 2021, the former king Zwelithini, father of Misozolos, died after taking power since 1971. The coronation was to recognize Misuzulu, 48, as the legal heir of his late father.
“This historic moment only happens once in a lifetime, and many of us will never see this historic moment again,” Ramaphosa said.
“You took the great spear that fell. I hope your steadfast hand will guide the kingdom of Amazulu and bring stability,” Ramaphosa said, adding that his government is committed to working with the new king to help transform rural areas into places of prosperity.
While the title of king confers no executive powers, monarchs exercise significant moral influence over the more than 11 million Zulu, who make up almost a fifth of South Africa’s 60 million people.
King Misuzulu rules a royal family divided by another faction that includes some of his late father’s wives and some of his brothers from other palaces, and recognizes King Zwelithini’s eldest son, Prince Semakadi, as king.
Misuzulu was chosen as the rightful heir by the will of his mother, the late Queen Mantvumpi Dlamini Zulu, who became the acting leader of King Zwelithini after the death of her husband. The Queen died almost two months after Zwelithini’s death.
“I pledge to develop the country and economy and to promote peace and reconciliation first among the Zulu and between South Africans and Africans,” King Misuzulu said after taking the oath.
The King controls vast tracts of land estimated at 3 million hectares in KwaZulu-Natal under an entity called the Ingonyama Trust.
Khiya Ndwandwe, a Zulu historian, said at the stadium that the government’s recognition of the new king as “the true king of the Zulu people” means that “the king will now be more than just a protector”.
“This is a wonderful day for the Zulu nation. It is a day of great joy for the Zulu and for everyone,” said Ndwandwe.