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A South African court began hearing a case this week over the leadership of the country’s influential Zulu nation, as factions within its royal family battle over who should be king of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Associated Press reported.
The case has pitted current King Misuzulu kaZwelithini against his half-brother, Prince Simakade Zulu, who believes he is entitled to the throne. It revolves around the traditional and legal processes used to designate the Zulu king, with Prince Simakade seeking to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recognition of Misuzulu’s legitimacy.
Misuzulu ascended the throne last year following the death of his father, King Goodwill Zwelithini, in 2021. The late king had six wives and a number of male heirs. He ruled for more than five decades, making him the longest-reigning Zulu monarch.
Following his death, Misuzulu’s mother, Queen Mantfombi, served as regent for a brief period before her own death. She designated her son as the next king in her will.
But Misuzulu’s ascension to the throne was also challenged last year.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Ramaphosa’s lawyer said that the president’s issuance of the certificate recognizing Misuzulu as the heir resulted from consultations with the Zulu royal family, confirming his status as king.
Ramaphosa also relied on past court rulings that dismissed earlier legal challenges to Misuzulu’s ascent to the throne.
The proceedings are expected to continue Wednesday. Meanwhile, the decision will have profound implications for the future leadership of the Zulu nation.
The Zulu nation comprises around 12 million Zulu-speaking people and is known historically for resisting British colonialism in the 19th century.
The Zulu king is considered the most influential traditional leader in South Africa, with the royal house believed to control about 30 percent of the land in KwaZulu Natal province.