Tens of thousands of people in colourful regalia gathered at a huge soccer stadium in the coastal city of Durban on Saturday to celebrate the official coronation of South Africa’s Zulu king.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was to hand over the certificate to formally recognise the 48-year-old new ruler of the country’s richest and most influential traditional monarchy.
Misuzulu Zulu ascended the throne once held by his late father, Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 after a diabetes-related illness.
The crowning — the first South Africa has witnessed in more than half a century — comes after a year of bitter feuding over the royal succession that has spilled into the courts.
Although the title of king does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population.
Amabutho, royal regiments, clad in traditional skirts, faux leopard skin tops, and carrying shields and sticks sang songs of praise for their king.
Women wore brightly coloured broad-brimmed Zulu hats and traditional wraps, while young girls in pleated skirts and beads danced on the terraces in the 85,000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium — which was built for the FIFA 2010 World Cup tournament.
Among the delegates were King Mswati III of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, who is also uncle to the new Zulu king.
Zulu kings are descendants of King Shaka, the 19th-century leader still revered for having united a large swathe of the country as the Zulu nation, which fought bloody battles against the British colonisers.
King Zwelithini, who died after more than 50 years in charge, left six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will.
But the queen died suddenly a month after Zwelithini, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king — a development that did not go down well with other family members.
The new monarch’s first name means “strengthening the Zulus” but his path to the crown has not been smooth.