By Ismail Auwal
South Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Zulus, await a new king as they bid farewell to the longest-serving king, who died after 50 years on the throne.
Secrecy cloaks the identity of Zwelithini’s successor, although the question is on everybody’s lips.
Ordinarily, it would have been the eldest son born to the senior of his six wives, with whom he sired 28 children.
But his first son, Prince Lethukuthula Zulu, was killed aged 50 last November at his Johannesburg home.
It is a “complicating factor” that the man who would likely have been the “designated” king is already dead, said Somadoda Fikeni, a cultural heritage expert.
Historian and cultural analyst Ntuli Pikita said that while the palace will have resorted to a “very intricate way” of picking the successor, its inner circle should know already who the next king will be.
The Zulus are popularly known for their vibrant culture, especially the timeless and riveting ancient war dance performed by the rhythmic stomping of feet.
The late king exuded the image of a traditional chief, typically sporting a poncho-like leopard-skin chest cover and wielding an unquestionable spiritual authority.
He spoke to powerful political leaders and appeared in public with Nelson Mandela.
He also had visits from President Cyril Ramaphosa and ex-president Jacob Zuma, during which they were seen performing the gripping Zulu war dance, known as “umzansi.”
Even though he lacked executive power under the South African system, he still had moral clout over more than 11 million Zulus, nearly a fifth of the country’s population.
The Zulu king remains the most influential of all these traditional leaders.