Ka Dinizulu, Mcwayizeni (Israel) 1932–1999
Ka Dinizulu, Mcwayizeni (Israel) 1932–1999
Mcwayizeni (Israel) Ka Dinizulu 1932–1999
Mcwayizeni Ka Dinizulu, a prince of the Zulu, died in September of 1999 at the age of 67. A key player in black South African politics, Ka Dinizulu was the first Zulu royal to openly support the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela in the long struggle against apartheid, and was a longtime foe of Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. At the time of his death in Johannesburg, Ka Dinizulu was a member of South Africa’s first democratically elected Parliament.
Ka Dinizulu, born in the early 1930s, often asserted that the Zulus were the first African people to fight European colonialism. During much of the nineteenth century, Zulu warriors opposed British and Boer encroachment while consolidating their power through some conquests of their own. In the end, however, the British won, and carved up Zululand in 1879. They allowed the Zulu to retain their chieftainships, but the land was given to white farmers, who then hired the Zulus to work on it. The Zulu area was incorporated into the Natal province of South Africa in 1897. “But the Zulus never lost their reputation as a brave warrior people; indeed, their story has been much boosted in the retelling in books and films,” asserted the Economist’s obituary of Ka Dinizulu. “The prince became the modern custodian of the legend. With some justification he called himself the ’father of the Zulu nation,’” it continued.
Ka Dinizulu was a member of the royal Zulu dynasty. His father, King Solomon, converted to Christianity in 1914 and began reasserting royal authority over the next decade. Despite his adopted faith, Solomon continued to practice polygamy, and Ka Dinizulu was the eldest son of Solomon and his favorite wife among the forty he eventually wed. This made Ka Dinizulu the senior prince, but the throne passed to his brother after their father’s death. When that sibling died, Ka Dinizu-lu’s nephew, Goodwill Zwelithini, inherited power. Since Goodwill was not yet of majority, or ruling age, Ka Dinizulu was named to serve as his regent. Some other members of the royal family resented Ka Dinizu-lu’s power, and complained that he stayed too long on the job before Goodwill was finally crowned in 1971. By then, the Zulu had been relegated to KwaZulu, one of the ten “homelands” created by apartheid laws to isolate black South Africans from the labor market.
Ka Dinizulu became King Goodwill’s prime minister, following a Zulu custom to give the senior member of the royal family the job. One of Ka Dinizulu’s most vociferous opponents, however, was a cousin, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who had expected the post himself. A few years Ka Dinizulu’s senior, Buthelezi had been raised at the royal palace as a child. Though Buthelezi served as KwaZulu’s chief minister, the perceived affront from the ruling dynasty set in motion years of acrimony. “The insult continued to rankle until, in 1979,” explained Chris Barron in Johannesburg’s
Career: Served as regent for King Goodwill Zwelithini until 1971, and senior advisor to king afterward; elected to parliament of South Africa on African National Congress party ticket, 1994,
Sunday Times, “the KwaZulu legislative assembly appointed a select committee at Buthelezi’s behest to investigate who was responsible for distancing him from the monarch and to finger the culprit responsible for excluding him from official participation in the installation ceremony.”
In 1975 Buthelezi revived a Zulu cultural organization from the 1920s, Inkatha, to fight apartheid. It advocated a separate black Zulu nation in Africa. Ka Dinizulu, on the other hand, opposed black nationalism, and argued that unity and cooperation were the only way. “[F]reedom for all South Africans was, he said, the way forward, irrespective of their ethnic ties,” Ka Dinizulu’s Economist obituary noted. “Yes, he was proud of being a Zulu, but throughout the world, he said, nationalism was causing misery,” it read.
Instead, Ka Dinizulu came to support the African National Congress (ANC), the earlier foe of apartheid and a group that was outlawed entirely—and its leader, Nelson Mandela, jailed—by the South African government in the early 1960s. Goodwill also came to side with the ANC, which brought much internal strife in KwaZulu. By the mid-1980s there was an undeclared civil war, in which Inkatha militia groups killed those suspected of sympathizing with ANC, and vice versa. In 1989, the year before Mandela was released, Ka Dinizulu broke with the KwaZulu government, resigned from the assembly, and sought membership in the ANC. Because of this move, he said, there were several attempts on his life. His family home in KwaNongoma, near the KwaZulu capital of Ulundi, was bombed, and at one point its electricity and water service was cut off. “However, Mcwayizeni was not cowed into silence,” noted the Sunday Times. “He launched a stinging attack on Buthelezi, telling him to take his nose out of the affairs of the Zulu royal family. ‘I want the Zulu nation to know I am disengaging Chief Buthelezi from the affairs of the royal family,’” the paper quoted him as saying.
A new era dawned in KwaZulu and South Africa itself after Mandela’s release. All apartheid laws were repealed, the ANC became a legitimate political party, and KwaZulu and the other homelands were dissolved. Ka Dinizulu was elected to ANC”s national executive committee, and at a 1992 ANC rally at King’s Park Stadium in Durban, a crowd of 40,000 cheered enthusiastically when he appeared onstage. “Although always as imperious as befitted a senior royal, Mcwayizeni was not too distant to acknowledge the applause with a little dance on stage,” noted Barron in the Sunday Times.
In South Africa’s first free elections in 1994, Ka Dinizulu successfully ran for a seat in Parliament on the ANC ticket as a representative of KwaZulu-Natal, as it was then known. After being sworn in, Ka Dinizulu’s influence began to wane, due in part to Buthelezi’s rise as Home Affairs minister in Mandela’s government. His health declined as well, and he suffered from kidney problems and high blood pressure. He died in Johannesburg on September 13, 1999. A traditional Zulu event, the reed dance, had been scheduled for the following Saturday, but was canceled. Ka Dinizulu’s wife, Thoko, his seven children, and seven grandchildren survived him. Tensions had abated between ANC and Inkatha factions, “and the Prince was praised,” noted Eric Pace in his New York Times obituary of Ka Dinizulu, “by Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who said the Prince had played a key role in contributing to peace in KwaZulu-Natal.”
Economist, September 18, 1999, p. 97.
New York Times, September 13, 1999, p. A17.
South African Review of Books, July/August 1994.
Sunday Times (Johannesburg), September 12, 1999.
Telegraph (U.K.), December 29, 1999.