Ramaphosa knew royal family had not identified next king but announced Misuzulu as heir, court hears

Prince Simphiwe Zulu, in green, with a group of amabutho outside the Pretoria high court pledging support for King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini.
Prince Simphiwe Zulu, in green, with a group of amabutho outside the Pretoria high court pledging support for King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini as head of the Zulu nation despite knowing the royal family would appeal a court judgment that ordered his kingship.

This was heard in the Pretoria high court on Wednesday morning during the final day of the trial contesting who is the rightful heir to the Zulu throne.

In response to leading arguments, the legal representative for Prince Mbonisi Zulu, advocate Thabani Masuku, explained how Ramaphosa failed to lawfully confer the certificate of kingship to Misuzulu.

He said the appeal of the high court findings will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal on November 13, where one of the matters to be challenged is the denied application for justice Isaac Madondo to recuse himself.

Madondo had ruled in March 2022 that Misuzulu was the “undisputed successor” after the passing of his father King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu in March 2021. Ramaphosa had relied on this judgment to confer the kingship, the court heard. 

However, the royal family had told Ramaphosa they intended to appeal the high court decision, yet he announced Misuzulu as the Zulu leader shortly thereafter.

Masuku argued Ramaphosa was acting irrationally by exercising “such weighty constitutional powers in the face of pending applications” which could affect the process of identifying the king.

“He had been told and was aware that the royal family, who are the ultimate adjudicators of who should be king, had intended to appeal. A very short time thereafter, he made his decision and that decision is the reason we are here.

“One must ask, what was so urgent for the president to make such a decision in the face of the royal family, saying they want to appeal? The president could have given them the opportunity for aspects of the identification process to be ventilated,” Masuku argued.

The battle for the Zulu throne is expected to be concluded in court on Wednesday, as Misuzulu’s half-brother, Prince Simakade Zulu argues he is the rightful heir to the throne.

Misuzulu’s uncle, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, who also applied to the court, argued the process of the royal family identifying their rightful heir was not followed but Ramaphosa announced Misuzulu as king.

Ramaphosa’s announcement came after feedback from the Zulu nation's traditional prime minister, the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who convened a royal family meeting on May 14 2021 to identify the next king.


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