South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to appeal a court decision that set aside his official recognition of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini as the King of the Zulu nation. The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that Ramaphosa did not follow due process under the Leadership Act of 2019 in handling a dispute over the throne. The court ordered the president to appoint an investigating committee of Zulu royal experts to determine the rightful heir, questioning the process that led to King Misuzulu’s recognition.
King Misuzulu’s ascension to the Zulu throne was marked by prolonged feuding over royal succession, resulting in a delayed traditional coronation. The presidency stated that King Misuzulu remains the identified heir to the throne, and the appeal seeks to challenge the court’s interference in the recognition process.
The succession dispute gained momentum when Prince Simakade Zulu, the half-brother of King Misuzulu, claimed entitlement to the throne. In March 2022, a court challenge was initiated in the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court, arguing that Misuzulu’s ascension violated customary law. However, the court dismissed the challenge, asserting that Misuzulu was the rightful heir according to customary law.
Beyond the symbolic significance of the Zulu monarchy, the succession dispute holds substantial material implications. King Misuzulu inherited vast land holdings—nearly 30,000 square kilometres—managed by a trust generating significant revenues. The Zulu nation, with approximately 10 million people, constitutes South Africa’s largest ethnic group. While the king lacks executive powers, the monarchy wields considerable moral authority and is constitutionally recognised.
The legal and constitutional complexities surrounding the Zulu succession underscore the intersection of tradition, law, and governance, impacting millions of South Africans and the management of substantial land assets. The appeals process will likely shape the resolution of this ongoing and significant royal dispute.