The Week (US)

The battle for the Zulu succession


Cyril Madlala

South Africa’s Zulu nation is being torn apart by “gossipmong­ers and plotters,” said Cyril Madlala. The king, Goodwill Zwelithini, died in March, leaving six wives and 28 children but no official heir. He had nominated his third wife, Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, to rule as regent, but last month she too died. Now the royal family, deaf to pleas by ministers to observe “appropriat­e decorum,” has fallen into a public orgy of “acrimony, bitter fallouts, backbiting, and backstabbi­ng.” The stakes are high because while the monarchy has no executive power, it has great influence among South Africa’s 11 million Zulus—about a fifth of

the country’s total population. It is also hugely wealthy, receiving an annual government stipend of $5 million in addition to revenue from millions of acres of farmland. With the king’s first wife now suing for half his estate, the stage is set for a long and costly legal battle. “Cupboard-loads of family skeletons” are tumbling out on social media, with some royals claiming that rival family members are illegitima­te. It’s all so unseemly. Even before the king died, South Africans had grumbled about his extravagan­ce in adding new wives and new palaces every few years. Now they may well wonder if the royal family is worth the expense.

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