Home Opinion and Features EXPLAINER: This is why recognition of Zulu king was ruled invalid

EXPLAINER: This is why recognition of Zulu king was ruled invalid

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Judge Norman Davis’ decision to set aside President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recognition of King Misuzulu as the king of the Zulu nation has created some turbulence in royal corridors.

AmaZulu King Misuzulu during the annual reed dance at eNyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya, Independent Newspapers

JUDGE Norman Davis’ decision to set aside President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recognition of King Misuzulu as the king of the Zulu nation has created some turbulence in royal corridors.

Those sympathetic to Prince Simakade were quick to claim victory, referring to him as ‘King Simakade’ in televised interviews and on social media after Judge Davis’ ruled on the matter on Monday.

But this was premature and the judgment was emphatic on that point.

Prince Simakade challenges king Misuzulu for the Zulu kingship. Picture: Facebook.

THE KING

The order was clear in that King Misuzulu remained the king of the Zulu nation, but it was the process followed by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the court ultimately ruled against.

“The question that came before this court was not to make a determination as to who should be king of the AmaZulu. The applicants didn’t ask the court to determine that issue. The applicants brought two review applications and the court was required to determine those,” Judge Davis wrote.

The first issue was whether King Misuzulu was correctly appointed king per Zulu customs and the second was whether Ramaphosa had acted in accordance with the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act 3 of 2019, also known as the Leadership Act.

Acting KZN Judge President Isaac Madondo had ruled substantively on the first issue, and Judge Davis was clear that he could not act as an appeal court on the basis of res iudicata (something which has already been decided). In other words, the king remains the king.

“AJP Madondo had already pronounced in related litigation in the Kwazulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg on 2 March 2022, that King Misizulu is the rightful heir to the throne,” wrote Judge Davis.

PROCESS BUNGLE

On the second issue, Judge Davis found that Ramaphosa had bungled, during the process to recognise King Misuzulu, the handling of a dispute lodged by one of the members of the Royal Rebels.

The process followed by Ramaphosa was unlawful and invalid in that he failed to appoint an investigating team to deal with a dispute by Princess Thembizulu Ndlovu. Judge Davis also slapped the president with a cost order.

To remedy this, the judge has ordered Ramaphosa to appoint an investigative committee in accordance with the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act 3 of 2019. The committee will be expected to conduct an investigation and to provide a report in respect of allegations that the identification of King Misuzulu was not done in terms of customary laws and customs.

This will entail a panel of cultural experts assisting the process in determining whether the process of identifying King Misuzulu was in line with Zulu customs.

Princess Thembi had written to Ramaphosa in June 2021 in protest after the May 2021 meeting that named King Misuzulu as the heir.

MEDIATION

Judge Davis applauded the 43-page mediation report penned by former KZN Premier Willies Mchunu and placed significant weight on its recommendations.

Ramaphosa had directed Princess Thembi’s dispute to former Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who constituted the mediation panel.

While the panel failed to resolve the dispute, it did advise against any decisions being taken while matters were pending in court, advised on the appointment of an acting king during the dispute and the appointment of an investigating team. It is the failing of constituting this investigating team of experts that has ultimately led to Judge Davis’ ruling.

Judge Davis lauded the panel for its “sterling work”, but noted that it was not prescribed in the Leadership Act. The act makes provision for an investigative committee should disputes arise, as it did with Princess Thembi’s dispute lodged with Ramaphosa.

“The Leadership Act clearly contemplates that an investigative committee is the statutory body created to perform such evaluative function. The Mediation Panel was not such an investigative committee and the President also did not claim that it was.

“The President therefore erred in law in not having followed the peremptory provisions (a statutory provision that requires exact compliance) of the Leadership Act. This renders his recognition decision susceptible to review,” said Judge Davis.

TIMELINE

– March 21, 2021: King Goodwill Zwelithini dies.

– March 24, 2021: King Zwelithini’s will names his wife, Queen Mantfombi as Queen Regent.

– April 29, 2021: Queen Regent Mantfombi dies less than two months after her husband’s death.

– May 7, 2021: Days later, at the Queen Regent Mantfombi’s memorial service, then Prince Misuzulu makes a stunning entrance flanked by Zulu regiments and some of his brothers at the memorial service as he effectively launches his bid for the throne. Prince Misuzulu is the eldest son of King Zwelithini and Queen Regent Mantfombi, who was also the Great Wife.

– May 13, 2021: Prince Misuzulu pays lobola for his long-time sweetheart, Ntokozo Mayisela. They have two children together. Eight cows and R50,000 cash is paid to the Mayisela family.

– May 14, 2021: A meeting convened by the Zulu royals nominates Misuzulu as the king.

– June 3, 2021: King Zwelithini’s sister Princess Thembizulu Ndlovu writes to President Ramaphosa objecting to King Misuzulu’s nomination.

– Circa June 2021: Ramaphosa defers the matter to Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who subsequently appoints a mediation panel led by former KZN Premier Willies Mchunu. The panel subsequently recommends an acting king be appointed due to the nature of the disputes, calls for an investigating team to be appointed, amongst other recommendations.

– March 2, 2022: Acting KZN Judge President Isaac Madondo finds Prince Misuzulu has been nominated as Zulu King in accordance with Zulu traditions and customs. He is declared the rightful heir in accordance with Zulu customs.

– April 8, 2022: Princess Thembizulu Ndlovu dies.

– October 29, 2022: King Misuzulu coronation takes place in front of a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and President Cyril Ramaphosa hands over the certificate in recognition.

– September 9, 2023: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi dies.

– October 16-18, 2023: Prince Simakade approaches the Gauteng North High Court seeking to declare President Ramaphosa’s decision to recognise King Misuzulu unlawful.

– December 11, 2023: Judge Davis sets aside Ramaphosa’s decision to recognise King Misuzulu as unlawful and invalid. He orders Ramaphosa to institute an investigating committee to probe into the dispute around whether King Misuzulu was declared King in accordance with Zulu customs.

AmaZulu King Misuzulu is handed his certificate by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Nkosazane Dlamini Zuma and KZN Premier Nomusa Dube Ncube in Durban on October 29, 2022. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo, African News Agency(ANA)

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