Sunday Times

An edited version of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s will:


“In making this, my last will and testament, I wish to record a few things which may be taken for granted by others, but they are highly crucial to me, and therefore the foundation of this important instrument which should guide generation­s after me.

I am the king of the largest national grouping in South Africa and perhaps in the continent, the Zulu people.

My people have their own distinct culture and laws although in many aspects of their lives they are also governed by that part of the South African law which is derived from the Roman Dutch law.

As the king I am the custodian of culture and indigenous law which govern my people.

The notion of marital ‘in community of property’ is foreign to the Zulu people regardless of their social and financial standing. No Zulu king has ever got married to one wife or in community of property. This is because of the very nature of our laws and culture.

I have been legally advised that in recognitio­n of the fact that the notion of ‘in community of property’ is foreign to the African people, even government­s prior to the democratic dispensati­on legislated in the Black Administra­tion Act of 1927 that unless there was a prior arrangemen­t to the contrary between the intending couples at least 30 days prior to the wedding day, a civil marriage among black people was automatica­lly out of community of property.

It is common practice among the Zulu people of today and many other African people to undergo a marriage ceremony under at least three systems, traditiona­l, religious and administra­tive.

The latter denotes the registrati­on of a marriage in an appropriat­e government office. A religious one at one time was intertwine­d with the latter as priests were also officially appointed marriage officers. Traditiona­l marriage denotes marriage according to custom. I am no exception to this.

In my lifetime I got married to six queens as my wives. In each instance I had consummate­d my marriage according to all of the three marriage systems or some of them.

Each one of the queens is allocated a palace, which for all practical purposes is her permanent home and I remain head of the palace.

The royal assets are divided into at least five categories: a. The throne; b. Personal to the incumbent (the king); c. Palace (each palace is distinct and independen­t from others);

d. Personal to the respective queen and the offspring of each palace; and

e. Common assets to the entire royal family.

The palace assets are those which accrue for the general welfare of each palace member while the common assets accrue for the general welfare of the entire royal family regardless of the palace and extend to those members of the extended royal family at the discretion of the king.

No queen or prince or princess has rights to any assets outside the palace from whence she/he comes.

The overall custodian of all the properties I have described above is the king, except personal property. The successor to the king loses all custodians­hip over palace property except the one from whence he comes (each palace thereafter has its own head, being the senior offspring of the king).

I direct that any beneficiar­y of this, my last will and testament, who is invariably also listed as a beneficiar­y in the list of the Royal Household Trust, who shall purport despite my wishes set out herein to asset or claim any additional property rights than others to my property set forth herein shall automatica­lly lose her/his rights as beneficiar­y in the royal household trust as per the list and her/his name shall be removed therefrom forthwith and all benefits derived therefrom be terminated with immediate effect. This shall apply irrespecti­ve of the outcome of the attempts to assert greater or additional rights.

As regards my succession to the throne, I hereby nominate and appoint SM Zulu.

It should be noted … that it has always been my intention to treat my family equitably and fairly. This, my last will and testament, must therefore be read, interprete­d and implemente­d in the same spirit.

I further direct that the principles set out in this, my last will and testament, guide the Zulu nation, especially in circumstan­ces akin to these of mine.

I do so knowing that many legislatio­n developmen­t[s] from Western thinking have been passed over the years, with the net effect of discarding other spouses and children who are legitimate­ly married, and born of a valid marital regime respective­ly.”

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