Tens of thousands of people in colourful regalia gathered at a huge soccer stadium in the coastal city of Durban on Saturday to celebrate the official coronation of South Africa’s Zulu king.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was to hand over the certificate to formally recognise the 48-year-old new ruler of the country’s richest and most influential traditional monarchy.
Misuzulu Zulu ascended the throne once held by his late father, Goodwill Zwelithini, who died in March 2021 after a diabetes-related illness.
The crowning — the first South Africa has witnessed in more than half a century — comes after a year of bitter feuding over the royal succession that has spilled into the courts.
Although the title of king does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population.
Amabutho, or royal regiments, clad in traditional skirts, faux leopard skin tops, and carrying shields and sticks chanted songs of praise for their king.
Singing and blowing whistles as they slowly and majestically glided around the pitch, women wore broad-brimmed Zulu hats and traditional wraps.
Young girls in equally brightly coloured pleated skirts and beads, excitedly danced and ululated in the 85,000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium — which was built for the FIFA 2010 World Cup tournament.
– ‘Great day for’ Zulus –
Londolo Zungu, 49, in traditional Zulu attire was among the women at the party. “We are very happy, more than happy, we are supporting the king 100 percent,” she told AFP.
Khaya Ndwandwe, a Zulu historian, said at the stadium that recognition of the new king by government as “the real king of the Zulu people” means “now the king will be more than protected”.
“It’s a great day for the Zulu nation. It’s a day of great joy for the Zulu people, for everybody,” said Ndwandwe.
The ceremony was given rolling live coverage on all of South Africa’s largest television stations and media outlets.
A long grey feather stuck out from the king’s hair, while a bunch of black feathers were arranged on the back of his head as he sat on a throne covered in leopard skin.
Head of the Anglican church in South Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba dabbed holy oil on the king’s hands, face and head as crowds looked on.
“As you embark upon your reign as king of the nation that is recognised internationally as one of the greatest in Africa, I believe you are being called to step up and emulate the highest traditions of your ancestors,” said Makgoba.
Among the delegates were King Mswati III of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, who is also an uncle to the new Zulu king.
Zulu kings are descendants of King Shaka, the 19th-century leader still revered for having united a large swathe of the country as the Zulu nation, which fought bloody battles against the British colonisers.
King Zwelithini, who died after more than 50 years in charge, left…