Lawfare & succession to the Zulu Kingdom

When the young Prince Cyprian Bhekuzulu ka Solomon approached thee then Prince Regent of the Zulu kingdom and who was also his uncle, the young prince (later to be king) reported that the regent threatened to shoot him right on the spot. The regent also warned Cyprian that the Zulu crown was attained by war. Indeed, the regent was correct in his assertion, however, it was the type of new warfare that both royals were oblivious to. The founder of the modern Zulu kingdom, King Shaka, used what was then new warfare to ascend to the throne, conquer, and consolidate neighbouring kingdoms into his empire. This involved close combat and innovative military tactics to win battles but in the 20th century, lawfare was to be the magic bullet needed to attain the crown.

What followed this unpleasant meeting between an uncle and a nephew was a battlefield staged in the government sanctioned enquiry to understand the laws and customs of succession and therefore bring victory to one of the parties. One must always be careful when analyzing the decisions taken by what was then an undemocratic government but the decision of setting up an enquiry for this matter was innovative and in my opinion, set a good base for future generations in resolving the thorny issue of succession. It was made clear during the enquiry (not by government officials but by the Zulu aristocracy) that the heir of the Zulu kingdom comes from a great wife. The claim of Prince Cyprian was complicated by the fact his late father did not appoint a Great Wife and he won this lawfare by other means but one thing was clear, this would have not been an issue had the late king appointed a Great Wife. King Cetshwayo kaMpande (the last absolute monarch of the Zulu kingdom) was once asked if a man can appoint a son as his heir other than the eldest son of his Great Wife, the King is reported to have given a simple “no”. What this indicate is that not even the King has a say on this issue once he has appointed a Great Wife.

Cyprian went on to become king and was succeeded by his son, King Zwelithini who passed away in 2021 and is the longest reigning Zulu Monarch. Once again, the crown is without a head and the words of the regent are proving true. The first wife of the late king has declared a lawfare and is launching a legal attack. The military tactic being used here is the claim that she’s the only legitimate wife of the king as they got married under civil law which prohibits polygamous relationships under the South African law. It is worthy to note that the King did not voluntary enter this kind of marriage but there was a law defaulting all marriages before the 1970s into civil law marriages of which the couple fall under. If this claim is upheld by the courts, then this battle for the crown will be unique in that it will render a mortal blow to the kingdom and nullify the crown and its reason for existence. The Zulu kingdom in the 21st century exists for a plethora of reasons but chief amongst them is that it is the preserver of laws and customs established precolonial times of which Zulu people still subscribe willingly including choosing to have a monarchy!

The Zulu kingdom exists within its own set of rules which can be challenged when there’s no clear indication of who or what will give fulfilment to those rules but this is not the case today. King Zwelithini had appointed a Great Wife and this had been public knowledge since 1977 and therefore rendering the issue of succession an open and shut case. I am tempted to adopt the boldness of the Zulu writer, RRR Dhlomo in his book Izikhali zaNamuhla (modern day weapons) where he was explicit in declaring that Cyprian is an heir but I will contain myself and resolve to declare that the king in waiting is well known in all his majesty being a descendant of kings from both sides of his family and that from birth he was assigned to strengthen the Zulu nation.