The legal dispute over who will succeed the late King Goodwill Zwelithini as monarch of the Zulu nation will only be argued next year.
Two matters were set down for hearing in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday, but in a communique to the lawyers, acting KwaZulu-Natal judge president Isaac Madondo said the judge who was supposed to preside had fallen ill.
Madondo did not name the judge.
The two matters are related and have been consolidated and will be heard on January 11 and 12.
In one, Queen Sibongile Winifred Zulu, first wife of the late king, is seeking to have her civil union declared in community of property and the only lawful union. She said this entitles her to half of the late king’s estate and he was precluded from entering into other traditional marriages.
Her daughters, princesses Ntandoyenkosi Zulu and Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma, are challenging the authenticity of the late king’s will, claiming his signature on the document is a forgery and that he did not wish Prince Misuzulu kaZwelithini, the eldest son of his third wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, to take over the throne.
The king, who took six wives, died on March 12.
Queen Dlamini-Zulu is said to have had elevated status because she hailed from Eswatini royalty. She was appointed regent during the time of mourning but passed away on April 29, paving the way for her eldest son to become monarch.
Both applications are being opposed by members of the royal family, including Prince Misuzulu and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
In heads of argument, the respondents said, in essence, that both issues are to be determined in terms of customary law and any decision on the marriage issue, or the impeachment of the will, have no bearing whatsoever on the succession dispute.
Queen Sibongile Winifred Zulu, it is argued, should lay her claim with the executor of the estate.
“In any event, the marriage issue is riddled with disputes of facts which fall to be referred to trial or oral evidence,” the written argument states.
Given that all the marriages had been “dissolved by death”, any legal opinion on their status would be a matter of “historical curiosity”.
The validity of the will was a “red herring” because who succeeds was to be determined by customary law and there was incontrovertible evidence that the royal family had spoken and, at a meeting in May this year, had identified Prince Misuzulu as the successor.
On the allegation that the late king’s will was a forgery, this had been negated by an expert handwriting analyst.
Last week the brother of the late king, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, attempted to secure an interdict to stop what he claimed was a planned “secret coronation” of Prince Misuzulu ahead of the outcome of the two applications. The interdict was not granted.