The Zulu monarchy in South Africa has been plunged into controversy following the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini and – weeks later – the regent.
It has led to a vicious power struggle for the throne – royals are fighting it out in court, hurling insults in public, and fuelling rumours of the poisoning of rivals.
The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg looks at some of the key players in the royal drama:
Father of the nation: King Goodwill Zwelithini
Born on 14 July 1948, he was the eighth monarch of the Zulu nation. Before he could take over from his father in 1971, he was forced to go into hiding for three years following death threats.
Isilo Samabandla Onke, loosely translated as “King of all Zulu kings”, as he was called, was a direct descendent of King Cetshwayo, the leader of the Zulu nation during the 1879 war against the British army.
To many, the father of 28 children from six wives embodied the honouring of time-held cultural practices. A feature of his reign was the revival of Umhlanga or Reed Dance in 1991.
The ceremony, attended by many hundreds of young unmarried Zulu women, is meant to celebrate virginity but King Zwelithini said it was also there to promote HIV and Aids awareness in KwaZulu-Natal – a province with one of the highest HIV-infection rates in the country.
King Zwelithini died on 12 March in hospital where he was being treated for diabetes-related issues. He was the longest-serving Zulu monarch, having been on the throne for almost 50 years.
After he was interred, his will was read out at a private gathering of the royal family. It is now at the centre of major dispute within the royal family, with some royals claiming that it had been forged.
The kingmaker: Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu
According to the will, the king chose her as the regent of the 11-million-strong nation.
Queen Dlamini-Zulu was to preside over the throne throughout the three months of mourning and was expected to announce the king’s successor. But she died before doing so.
She was the sister of Eswatini’s King Mswati III, and married the Zulu monarch in 1977.
As she came from royalty, Queen Dlamini-Zulu became the “Great Wife”. She had eight children with the late king.
Unlike the king’s other wives, her lobola, or bride price, of about 300 cattle was paid for by the Zulu nation, following a collection within communities.
Historians say this cemented her senior status within the royal family.
Her appointment as regent fuelled speculation that her eldest son, the US-educated 46-year-old Prince Misizulu, would be the next monarch, though the royal family has not confirmed this.
The 65-year-old died from an undisclosed illness just a month after taking over as regent and is being buried on Thursday. The queen’s unexpected death on 29 April has left many questions unanswered and stirred rumours of a murder plot.
Over the last few years she had been spending more time in Eswatini, apparently to attend to her health.
On one occasion, King Zwelithini, explaining her absence to the Zulu nation, said she had been poisoned.
“The king spoke before hundreds of people in December 2017, when we gathered for the [46th] anniversary celebration of his coronation. In front of all these people, His Majesty said: ‘Mnemtanenkosi has been poisoned. That is why she is not with us’,” recounted Zulu traditional prime minister Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a statement earlier this week.
No further details are available on the poisoning claims from 2017, but it is understood that she had been in and out of hospital since then.
It is still unclear how she died. Chief Buthelezi said a post-mortem had been done to establish the cause of death, and its results were expected in a couple of weeks.
“When I announced Her Majesty the regent’s passing, I spoke in isiZulu, explaining that doctors had not wanted to operate because of toxins in her liver. This required treatment with antibiotics in the hope of reducing the infection. Toxins are not the same thing as poison,” he was quoted on Monday as saying, amid rumours that she had once again been poisoned.
The disillusioned queen: Sibongile Dlamini
The first wife of King Zwelithini, she has launched a court bid for half of her late husband’s vast estate, which includes several properties, and hectares of prime land across KwaZulu-Natal that the king was trustee of.
It is unclear how much cash the king left behind. The KwaZulu-Natal government gives the royal household an annual sum of 71 million rand ($5m; £3.5m) for its upkeep.
Queen Dlamini says that only she and the king were married in community of property.
She wants the court to set aside his other five, traditional marriages, to prevent them from getting an equal share of the estate, to recognise her as the only legal wife, and to block the ascension to the throne of anyone who is not from her family.
In fact, she says she holds the title of “Great Wife”, or Udlunkulu in Zulu, as she was the king’s first wife married to him under civil law which does not allow or recognise polygamy.
In a court affidavit, Queen Dlamini also revealed that she was made to marry King Zwelithini under the ancient cultural practice of ukuthwala (abduction for marriage) at the age of 20.
“In my case, I was brought to the home of the late Isilo through the custom of ukuthwala in order to marry the late Isilo so that in turn, he could take up the throne as the monarch of the Zulu nation,” she said.
She claims that the estate of the royal household belongs to her and her late husband in equal parts, and any attempt to dispose it “as if it was the sole property of the late Isilo is legally incompetent and impermissible”.
Meanwhile, in a separate court case, two of Queen Dlamini’s daughters are challenging the validity of their late father’s will and claim they have reason to believe it was forged. They have thrown their weight behind Queen Dlamini’s claim to the estate.
The dead prince: Lethukuthula
For years there was speculation that the king would choose his eldest son, Prince Lethukuthula, as his heir. The prince was the son of the king’s first wife.
But the prince died in November in mysterious circumstances. Some in the monarchy believe his death may have been an attempt to prevent him from ascending to the throne but this has never been proven.
Five suspects, four women aged between 27 and 42 and a 32-year-old man, were arrested in the capital Pretoria for the murder of the 50-year-old prince.
The investigation into his death is still ongoing and they have not yet been asked to plead.
Initial reports allege that the price and his business partner were drugged and robbed by the suspects who the prince was apparently entertaining at his home.
The prince was later found dead, and the business partner was found sleeping in another room.
A palace spokesman was quoted at the time as saying that security could not be provided for all the king’s children as it would be too expensive and a “nightmare”.
The ‘royal rebels’: Prince Mbonisi and Princess Thembi
Days after the king’s death, his siblings, Prince Mbonisi and Princess Thembi, were accused of holding secret meetings of the royal court. They were apparently not in favour of the appointment of Queen Dlamini-Zulu as interim leader.
News of the clandestine meetings have caused discomfort for some in the royal family who believe they would cause divisions.
But the siblings have denied that their actions are sinister, saying they were discussing how to support the new regent and had intended to report back to the wider royal family.
They have also distanced themselves from any involvement in the queen’s death.
“People think we’re murderers,” Princess Thembi told local media on Sunday, at an impromptu press conference amid the bitter family rift over who will become the next monarch.
She added that they were “not plotting to overthrow anyone” and expressed hurt at the inference.
The mouthpiece: Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Since King Zwelithini’s death, Chief Buthelezi has been speaking on the developments within the royal family.
He is seen as the late king’s traditional prime minister and played a central role in announcing the death of the monarch and the regent, and keeping the public informed about funeral preparations.
But his role has earned him the ire of some princes and princesses, who have accused him of silencing dissent, of being a dictator, and they dispute his claim that he was King Zwelithini’s traditional prime minister, or chief adviser.
“His time [as traditional prime minister] ended long ago. The reason why he is still in that position is because we respect him,” Princess Thembi was quoted as saying.
As for Chief Buthelezi, he dismissed the princess as “an illegitimate child of my cousin, King Cyprian”, and described Prince Mbonisi as someone who the king used “to run errands”.
“Perhaps most distressing of all is the claim that Her Majesty the Regent was somehow shoved down their throats. His Majesty the King appointed Her Majesty as Regent. If they have a quarrel, it is with the king himself,” Chief Buthelezi was quoted by South Africa’s News24 website as saying.
It is unclear how the leadership dispute will be resolved – and when the next king will be chosen. But there is enormous pressure on the royal family to let it happen peacefully and in a dignified way. The monarchy embodies centuries of tradition, and is revered by many Zulus.
WATCH: Frail Gbagbo attends church in first public appearance since his return
Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo attended mass in Abidjan on Sunday, one of his first public appearances since returning home after nearly a decade in exile.
To the surprise of churchgoers, Gbagbo showed up at St. Paul Cathedral, where he was greeted by Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa.
The former leader appeared weak as he made his way to the altar before exchanging greetings with the presiding priest and subsequently taking a front row seat.
He wore an African print and was wearing his face mask throughout the service.
“The ceremony has been wonderful, his (Gbagbo) visit to the cathedral was a surprise for us, we did not know about his visit. So, we are happy. It’s happiness for Africa and for Ivory Coast.
“(I hope) that peace comes back in Ivory Coast and that God puts his hands on Ivory Coast, that he blesses the families of Ivory Coast” said priest Henri Akredizon.
“We have finished our conference, and we have come this morning for the closure of the conference, and it was a coincidence that we have found former president Laurent Gbagbo in church. I think it’s a matter of peace, we work for peace so everybody must go on the same line of peace.
“So, what we demand of the head of the state is peace in Ivory Coast and in the entire world,” stressed Jeanette Toure, president of National Association of Women of the Catholic Church in Ivory Coast.
The ex-president finally returned to Ivory Coast on Thursday after the ICC upheld his acquittal on charges related to the post-electoral violence that engulfed Ivory Coast after its 2010 president election.
While thousands celebrated his return, his opponents maintain he should be jailed in Ivory Coast, not given a statesman’s welcome.
Are you honourable members or horrible members? – Lumumba to Nigerian lawmakers
An anti-corruption advocate told federal lawmakers on Wednesday, June 16 that Nigeria’s development has been slow for far too long, owing to a lack of visionary leadership.
Patrick Lumumba, a former director of Kenya’s anti-corruption commission, also asked the Nigerian legislators whether they are “honourable members” or “horrible members.”
He asked of the legacies of late nationalists Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikwe and how much of their legacies had been preserved as he referred the lawmakers to them.
He said the clarity of vision and the instinct to marshal people is the antidote to tackle Nigeria’s many challenges, as this was what worked for the nation’s founding fathers.
The don who is also the Director, Kenya School of Laws, spoke at the launch of the House of Representatives Green Chamber magazine Wednesday, June 16 in Abuja.
“Nigeria has been becoming great for too long,” Mr Lumumba said in his speech.
“The time is now that Nigeria must be great. In fact, Nigeria should be in the same space economically as Germany is; Nigeria should be in the same space politically as the United States is.”
“You are the successors of Nigeria’s great leaders. The question that you must ask yourself now that you have been given the honour and privilege of serving Nigeria, you should ask yourself, are you honourable members or horrible members?” he asked amidst laughter from his audience.
According to him, whether members are “honourable” or “horrible” is determined by the kind of service they provide to Nigerians. He urged lawmakers to be servants of the people rather than masters, with the primary purpose of delivering the common good to Nigerians.
“Now that Nigerians have given you the opportunity to think for them, the question is: are you midwives of the good things of Nigeria, or are you midwives that kill the children of the creator.”
Africa’s 10 most peacful countries, Mauritius leads the pack – 2021 Peace Index Report
Mauritius has been ranked Africa’s most peaceful country according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, GPI, report released last week.
The island nation ranked first on the continent and 28th most peaceful country in the world according to a ranking of 163 nations.
Mauritius garnered 1.592 overall score which was 10 steps away from that of Africa’s second most peaceful country, Ghana, which ranked 378th on global ladder with 1.712 overall score.
Completing the top five most peaceful nations in sub-Saharan Africa are Botswana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
The sixth to tenth slots are occupied by Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi, Equatorial Guinea and Namibia respectively.
It means West Africa has dominated the top 10 countries with four countries in the top ranks – Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Senegal.
The GPI is an annual report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
It measures the state of peace in countries whiles assessing the countries in three domains: the level of societal safety and security, the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarisation.
Some key development indicators about Mauritius
Mauritius is the only African country to be in the “very high” category on the Human Development Index.
According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy.
Mauritius is also ranked as the most competitive, and one of the most developed economies in the African region.
The country is a welfare state where government provides free universal health care, free education up through the tertiary level and free public transportation for students, senior citizens, and the disabled.
In 2019 and 2020, Mauritius was ranked the most peaceful African country by the Global Peace Index.
About the 2021 GPI
The 15th edition of the GPI also measured the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on peace.
This looked especially at the impact of the pandemic, and in particular, how its economic consequences will increase the risk of severe deteriorations in peace over the next few years.
Civil unrest rose 10 per cent globally, driven by the coronavirus pandemic, the GPI report added.
There were 14,871 violent demonstrations, protests and riots recorded globally in 2020.
The report said COVID-19 was a “multiplying force” in future political instability and civil unrest.
It added the level of this unrest going forward is likely to hinge on the speed and effectiveness of economic recovery. Countries with less debt and higher levels of positive peace were more likely to recover faster.
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