Zulu King lashes ‘disrespectful treatment’

Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation and senior IFP leader Thulasizwe Buthelezi, left, and Siboniso Duma, Economic Development MEC and ANC KZN chairperson.

Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation and senior IFP leader Thulasizwe Buthelezi, left, and Siboniso Duma, Economic Development MEC and ANC KZN chairperson.

Published Apr 24, 2024


The fallout over the microphone-grabbing incident between traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch Thulasizwe Buthelezi and ANC provincial chairperson Siboniso Duma appears to be far from over.

This comes after the KwaZulu-Natal government last week revoked the contract of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini’s cultural adviser, Buzetsheni Mdletshe.

The latest development stems from an incident on stage in Zululand on March 16 between Duma and Buthelezi.

Duma took the microphone away from Buthelezi, who was introducing the king, when Buthelezi started to make reference to the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.

Duma then called on Mdletshe to introduce the king but he refused to do so, citing royal protocol where only the traditional prime minister can do this.

The incident took place in full view of the Zulu king, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube at an event to commemorate King Dinuzulu KaCetshwayo.

The king, in a statement on Tuesday, “expressed his extreme displeasure at the disrespectful manner in which the KZN government continues to treat him”.

“In the latest incident, the Office of the Premier has terminated the employment contract of Mdletshe.

“His Majesty is disappointed that the KZN government operates as though the king does not exist.

“His Majesty cautions the KZN government that the disdain with which they treat the royal family in general and His Majesty in particular is an affront to the Zulu nation,” read the statement.

The statement was in response to a one-page letter sent by the Office of the Premier to Mdletshe’s company, Mavukefile Pty Ltd, to inform him of the termination of his contract.

“As you may be aware, the office of the Premier, like all other government departments and entities, has experienced substantial budget cuts. As a result, the office of the Premier inevitably had to review its spending and operational plans, as well as all agreements and contracts that were concluded with private entities,” the letter stated.

Buthelezi told “The Mercury” on Tuesday that the “manner in which the provincial government is conducting themselves does not augur well for relations between the royal family and the government”.

“We can reach no other conclusion, than to say this is a reprisal for Mdletshe refusing to be bullied by MEC Duma on the day and directing him to follow the correct protocol.

“Generally, the pattern that has emerged is that the KZN government consistently undermines the king.”

The Office of the Premier issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Mdletshe had not been fired, explaining that he had retired in 2020 at the age of 65.

The king’s personal advisers, Professor Jabulani Maphalala and Philani Mavundla, also issued a statement regarding their concerns about the provincial government’s decision to terminate its agreement with Mdletshe.

Maphalala on Tuesday confirmed that Mdletshe was the owner of Mavukefile Pty Ltd.

“If these reports are indeed true and are based on budgetary constraints, it raises questions as to why essential services are being cut while extravagant government functions, filled with unnecessary expenses for entertainment, continue to be funded.

“It is hard not to connect this action to (Mdletshe’s) refusal to follow an instruction from Duma, who has no authority in Zulu traditional matters.

“The apparent struggle of the ANC to acknowledge King Misuzulu’s appointment of Buthelezi as the traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation is becoming increasingly evident.

“Their exaggerated reactions following this announcement seem to intertwine political motives with Zulu cultural matters,” they wrote.

In its statement on Tuesday, the office of the Premier said after Mdletshe’s retirement and at the request of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, Mdletshe’s contract was extended by a further two years beyond his compulsory retirement age, to continue to provide praise singing to the king and to train and mentor young and upcoming praise singers.

“This contract started on 1 January 2021 and expired on 31 December 2022.”

The office said a ‘Mr Mkhize’ was one of two people identified and mentored by Mdletshe and Mkhize is employed by the office to provide the praise singing services to the king.

It said at the end of the two-year extension, “it was evident that Mr Mdletshe’s services were still required”.

“As such the Office of the Premier contracted him through his company from 15 February 2023.

“Due to financial constraints and the fact that Mr Mkhize is already being paid by the Office of the Premier to provide the praise singing services, it would have been a duplication to keep both in the same role.”

It added that if Mdletshe’s services were required it could be sourced through the Zulu Royal Trust, an entity of government.

The Mercury