South Africa’s Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini is being treated in hospital for suspected poisoning, his traditional prime minister has said.
The king sought medical attention in Eswatini as he is uncomfortable with seeking treatment in South Africa, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi added.
This follows the sudden death of one of his senior advisers, also of suspected poisoning, Chief Buthelezi said.
However, the king’s official spokesman said he was in “perfect health”.
The monarch was currently not in hospital, and “unnecessary panic” should not be created, Prince Africa Zulu said, in what appeared to be an indirect reference to Chief Buthelezi’s statement.
King Misuzulu was crowned in front of thousands of his subjects last October.
But a vicious power struggle has been raging within the royal family over the 48-year-old’s accession, and tensions have also recently surfaced between the monarch and Chief Buthelezi.
The Zulu king does not have formal political power and the monarch’s role within broader South African society is largely ceremonial, but he remains hugely influential with a yearly government-funded budget of several million dollars.
A faction within the family is challenging his claim to the throne in court, insisting that he is not the rightful heir of his late father, King Goodwill Zwelithini.
They insist that another son of the late king, Prince Simakade, should be the monarch.
King Zwelithini had six wives and at least 26 children.
His will has also been challenged in court by his first wife, Queen Sibongile Dlamini-Zulu, and her two daughters.
A court dismissed their case last year, but they said they would appeal against the ruling.
There is no suggestion that any members of the royal family are behind King Misuzulu’s suspected poisoning.
The South African police have not yet commented on the claims.
In his statement, Chief Buthelezi said King Misuzulu’s senior aide, Douglas Xaba who stayed with him, “passed on quite suddenly and that there are suspicions that he was poisoned”.
“When His Majesty began to feel unwell, he suspected that he too may have been poisoned.
“He immediately sought out medical treatment in Eswatini. I am informed that His Majesty felt uncomfortable seeking treatment in South Africa, as his parents had both received treatment in South Africa and subsequently died,” Chief Buthelezi said.
Chief Buthelezi added that while the king had recently appointed Prince Africa as the head of communications in his office, he, as the traditional prime minister, had an obligation to inform the Zulu nation of “this worrying situation”.
“Our immediate concern is the King’s wellbeing. We as the Zulu nation pray for His Majesty’s full and swift recovery.
“Should there be any reason for further investigations, that will be attended to by the authorities,” Chief Buthelezi said.
In his subsequent statement, Prince Africa said there appeared to be an “orchestrated agenda and a desperate narrative to communicate defamatory and baseless claims” about the king’s health.
“Ultimately, this creates unnecessary panic and perceptions of instability in the Royal Crown,” he added.
However, Prince Africa confirmed the monarch had undergone a thorough medical examination in Eswatini while visiting his uncle, King Mswati III.
The checks were carried out because of “our current times of pandemics such as Covid-19 and other dangerous ailments”, and also “to mitigate against any untimely eventuality, given the reports of Mr Xaba’s sudden passing”.
King Misuzulu’s accession to the throne was sooner than expected, and he has been at the centre of palace intrigue.
His father died during the Covid pandemic in March 2021 of diabetes-related complications.
He was the Zulu nation’s longest-reigning monarch, having served on the throne for almost 50 years.
King Misuzulu’s mother, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, then became the regent, but she died a month later.
She was the sister of Eswatini’s King Mswati III – Africa’s only absolute monarch.
At the time, Chief Buthelezi dismissed rumours that she had been poisoned.
He had backed King Misuzulu’s accession to the throne after her death, but recent reports suggested that sharp differences had emerged between the two.
It followed a dispute over the chairmanship of the Ingonyama Trust Board, which manages vast tracts of land controlled by the monarch.
The king appointed Chief Thanduyise Mzimela as its chairman, but this was opposed by Chief Buthelezi who felt he was inexperienced for the post, according to local media.