New Zulu king is 3rd to kill a lion before ascending throne: here’s why he performed this ritual

Stephen Nartey August 22, 2022
New Zulu King, Misuzulu Ka Zwelithini/ Photo credit: BBC

One of Africa’s most storied monarchies, the Zulu Kingdom, will on September 24, 2022, officially install its king to end South Africa’s most recent acrimonious royal feud.

According to oral history, the succession of the Zulu throne has many a time been fierce, chaotic and in some instances bloody. The legendary King Shaka Ka Senzangakhona in 1816 murdered his brother to ascend the throne.

The 24th of September is considered Shaka’s Day, a day held in honor of the revered Zulu King where thousands of Zulus troop to his graveyard to pay homage for his role in uniting the Zulu kingdom.

Over the weekend, 47-year-old Misuzulu Ka Zwelithini was crowned the Zulu King at the Kwakhangelamankengane royal palace in South Africa. He succeeded his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, whose 50-year reign came to an end when he died in March 2021.

The ascension would not have formally cemented his legitimacy without the newly crowned Zulu king fulfilling this significant ritual in the Zulu culture. It is the killing of a lion before entering the royal kraal, the last traditional rite before a public coronation as the Zulu King in Durban next month.

Buzetsheni Mdletshe, the King’s praise singer, told Daily News King Shaka killed a lion with his own spear before ascending the throne. According to him, though this rite is extremely significant in cementing the authority of a Zulu King, Misuzulu is the third royal to have honored this ritual.

He recalled that King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu prior to his coronation also killed a lion to follow the almost forgotten blueprint laid by King Shaka.

The king’s praise singer said lions are spiritually regarded as kings in the Zulu culture, therefore, the act of killing a lion before ascending the throne means the successor has killed another king. He will be wearing the hide of the slain lion to inform the Zulu community he is the chosen one, quelling any rebellion or doubts that will be raised before his official coronation on September 24.  

He explained that cows have to be slaughtered to purify the newly crowned king after killing a lion.

The king’s next ceremony after the purification is for him to enter the sacred cattle kraal to spiritually engage with the ancestors before his outdooring as the new Zulu king.

The Zulu kingdom is famous for the battle of Isandlwana where they defeated British troops in 1879.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 22, 2022


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