One of South Africa's six Zulu widows began suing the heir a week ago, claiming she was the monarch's only legal widow, as they had entered into a civil marriage, and he married his other five wives only according to the traditional ceremonies.
Complicated legal issue
King Goodwill Zwelithini died last March at the age of 72 after 50 years on the throne, leaving behind six wives and at least 28 children.
In his will he had named his beloved third wife, Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini, as regent of the more than 11 million Zulu people who make up almost one-fifth of South Africa's population, according to the British Guardian newspaper.
The late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini / Associated Press.
But Shiyiwe died suddenly in April – just a month after the king – leaving a will for their 47-year-old son Misuzulu Zulu to ascend the throne. The coronation has not yet taken place and Misuzulu did not attend last Tuesday's hearing.
However, several other Zulu kings were present, some wearing animal skins around their shoulders or a fur crown on their heads.
A lawyer for Queen Sibongile Dlamini, the king's first wife, who is challenging Misuzulu's right to the throne, told the court: “Does civil marriage preclude customary marriage? “The validity of customary weddings is one of the main issues, Your Excellency.”
The judge, Isaac Madondo, acknowledged that the case was “not just a legal issue [but also] a conflict of law between common law and customary law”.
The first queen is also claiming half of the royal inheritance before a court in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of South Africa's eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Zulu king, who had no executive power but wielded great moral influence over his subjects, owned thousands of acres of land as well as many palaces and other properties.
Some Zulu say royal affairs have no business in the courts, and dozens of Zulu warriors wearing animal skins and shields and spears protested outside the court on Tuesday, singing traditional songs.
They complain about a fake signature
Queen Sibongile's two daughters, Princesses Ntombizosuthu and Ntandoyenkosi, question the validity of the will. They say that a handwriting analysis found that the signature was forged.
In fact, a mediator will meet with the two sides on Tuesday, in an effort to find a common ground and finally appoint the next Zulu king.
Succession to the Zulu throne in the courts – The king's one widow vs. the other 5 wives
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