KWANONGOMA, South Africa (AP) — The new king of South Africa’s Zulu nation Misuzulu kaZwelithini was enthroned in a colorful ceremony Saturday before hundreds of supporters in a rural part of KwaZulu-Natal province.
The king dismissed those challenging his right to the throne in his first public comments on the issue. He was crowned as the traditional leader of the Zulu nation, although some members of the royal family dispute his right to succeed his late father King Goodwill Zwelithini.
Some members of the family prefer an older brother and a different group supports another brother. The late king had six wives and several sons. After the king died last year, Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s mother served as the regent for just a month before she died but in her will she named her son to be the next king. This is regarded by many as the strongest claim to the Zulu throne.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has recognized Misuzulu kaZwelithini as the rightful heir to the Zulu throne. Ramaphosa is set to present him with an official certificate pronouncing him the king of the Zulu people at a ceremony later this year.
Misuzulu kaZwelithini addressed about 1,000 supporters after undergoing a traditional ritual known as ukungena esibayeni (entering the royal cattle enclosure) to mark the beginning of his reign as king.
“I know that you are aware of the state of the royal family in recent times. I request that whatever you hear in the media, and the comments being made by those disputing the throne, you should hear them but you should not listen to them,” said Misuzulu kaZwelithini.
He called for unity among the Zulu nation and thanked Ramaphosa for his support.
The ceremony and celebrations were colorful displays of Zulu culture where hundreds of people dressed in traditional regalia.
Women wearing beads, skirts and hats ululated and sang Zulu hymns and slogans as they awaited the arrival of the new king.
Cheers rose in the air as Misuzulu kaZwelithini entered the main enclosure at the palace where he was handed a sharp, gold-plated scepter and received congratulatory messages from elders of the Zulu nation.
Hundreds of male Zulu warriors known as amabutho wielded traditional shields, spears and sticks as they chanted and marched into the royal palace to pledge their allegiance to their new leader.
Throughout the day men slaughtered an estimated 50 cattle, while women cooked the meat and other foods and brewed traditional sorghum beer for the celebratory feast.
The event, widely viewed as the installment or coronation of the new king, was also attended by traditional leaders from other South African ethnic groups and representatives of other nationalities who trace their origins to the Zulu nation, including communities from Zambia and Malawi.
The Zulu ethnic group is South Africa’s largest with more than 12 million people who are mainly located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. They are acknowledged for their fierce resistance to British colonialism under King Shaka Zulu in the early 1800s.
As the leader of the Zulu nation that has control over about 10,810 square miles of land in KwaZulu-Natal province, the king is arguably the most influential traditional leader in South Africa.