Uncertainty reigned on Sunday over the health of South Africa’s Zulu king, the head of the country’s most influential traditional monarchy, with his spokesman denying reports he had been hospitalised.
Last year, Misuzulu Zulu, aged 48, assumed the throne following the passing of his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, which triggered a contentious dispute over the royal succession.
In a press release issued on Saturday, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the influential Zulu prime minister, revealed that the monarch had been hospitalized in the neighboring country of Eswatini due to an illness.
The king expressed suspicions of poisoning, attributing it to the sudden and unexpected death of one of his close advisors on Saturday.
Although the position of the Zulu nation’s king does not confer executive authority, the monarchs possess significant moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, constituting almost one-fifth of South Africa’s 60 million population.
Following King Zwelithini’s demise after more than five decades of reign, he left behind six wives and a minimum of 28 children.
Misuzulu, the eldest son of Zwelithini’s third wife, was appointed as regent in his father’s will. However, a month after Zwelithini’s passing, the queen also died abruptly, leaving behind a will designating Misuzulu as the next king, a decision that was met with resistance from other members of the family.