Law Save the King

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A South African judge annulled the president’s recognition of the Zulu king on Monday, prolonging a royal saga over the succession involving one of Africa’s most influential monarchies and the country’s largest ethnic group, the New York Times reported.

After the death in 2021 of King Goodwill Zwelithini, who ruled the kingdom for 50 years, President Cyril Ramaphosa recognized King Misuzulu kaZwelithini in 2022 as the new monarch.

Judge Norman Davis ruled, however, that Ramaphosa failed to consider other legal provisions requiring that he settle succession disputes and consider a mediation panel’s advice before giving his blessing to the new king.

The panel had proposed the nomination of an interim king while a feud between would-be kings was being addressed.

Deciding who should sit on the throne is not as streamlined as in other monarchies because King Goodwill Zwelithini had six wives and 28 children.

KaZwelithini is the eldest son of the late king and his third wife, who was part of the ruling dynasty in Eswatini. This heritage justifies appointing Misuzulu as king, he and his allies said.

Meanwhile, other princes, making accusations of forgery, poisoning of rivals, and incest, challenged kaZwelithini’s recognition.

Nonetheless, the kaZwelithini’s camp said they were confident the status quo would remain, as the judge did not overrule an earlier decision based on customary law that he indeed was the rightful heir.

Though they do not govern within the South African republican constitutional system, Zulu kings rule over 14 million subjects who look up to them for guidance on moral and cultural matters. Politicians court them to win the hearts of the nation’s majority.

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