The late King Goodwill Zwelithini was one of the most influential kings to rule the Zulus in the modern era and equally one of the most known royalties in South Africa. While he held some level of authority over 10 to 12 million people, he had six wives and as many as 28 children. Since the death of the monarch and the announcement that he selected one of his wives, the late Mantfombi Dlamini to be the queen regent, so much light has continued to shine on the royal family and the queens in particular as they engage in power tussle.
Mantfombi, who was also his Great Wife, did not live long after her husband passed on before she also died. Now the question that remains is as regards the other women who were also married to the late king, their places in his life, and how they have been faring since his death.
Meet The Six Wives Of Late King Goodwill Zwelithini
Like many other famous Zulu men, including South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, the late king had no problem marrying as many women as he wanted and he settled for 6. The first woman he got married to was Sibongile Winifred Dlamini, followed by Buthle MaMathe, Princess Mantfombi Dlamini of Eswatini, Thandekile Jane Ndlovu, Nompumelelo Mchiza, and finally Zola Zelusiwe Mafu.
Queen Sibongile Winifred Dlamini
The eldest wife of the late king, Sibongile Winifred Dlamini married Zwelithini in 1969 when he was still a Prince, and then in 1971, he became king.
Her marriage to the late king produced five children, including Lethukuthula Zulu who was the first son of the king and was believed to be the one to take over the throne after his father. Unfortunately, Lethukuthula died in 2020. Other children between Queen Sibongile and the late king are Nombuso Zulu, Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma, Sinethemba Bati Zulu, and Ntandoyenkosi Zulu. She lives in one of the six palaces of the late king at Kwa-Khethomthandayo Royal House, Nongoma.
Following the death of the Zulu king, Queen Sibongile asked to be given 50% of Zwelithini’s estate, insisting that everything the late king had belonged to the two of them. More so, she filed an application at the Pietermaritzburg High Court arguing that the late Queen Mantfombi Dlamini should not be allowed to ascend the throne since she was the only customary wife of the late king.
Queen Buhle Mamathe Zulu
The second wife of the late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, Queen Buhle MaMathe was born in 1951 and she got married to the King in 1974. Their marriage produced eight children, including Princess Sibusile Zulu and Princess Nandi Zulu. Others are Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu, Prince Buzabazi Zulu, Prince Sihlobosenkosi Zulu, and Prince Phumuzuzulu Zulu. Prince Butho Zulu, who is also one of their children, died in 2018 following a long illness.
Queen Buhle was attacked together with her daughter, Princess Sibusile Zulu in 1996, in what was believed to be politically motivated. It was during this attack that Princess Nonhlanhla Zulu disappeared only to be found dead later.
Buthle MaMathe has kept her silence since the death of the late King as the power play continues to unfold. She lives in Kwa-Dlamahlahla Royal House, Nongoma.
Queen Mantfombi Dlamini
Three years after his marriage to Buthle, the late Zulu king got married a third time to the daughter of King Sobhuza II of Swaziland, Mantfombi Dlamini. Her brother is the current King of Swaziland, King Mswati III. The princess got married to King Goodwill in 1977 and they were blessed with 8 children – Prince Misuzulu Zulu, Princess Ntandoyesizwe Zulu, Princess Nomkhosi, Prince Bambindlovu, Princess Bukhosibemvelo, Prince Lungelo, Prince Mandlesizw, and Prince Simangaye.
As the Great Wife, she became the queen consort from the time she was married until the death of her husband in 2021 and she was the closest of the six wives to the late King. After that, she became the queen regent in March 2021. Unfortunately, only a month after assuming the throne, the queen died. While there were initial rumors suggesting she was poisoned, it was later claimed that she had been battling with some illness before the tragic event. She used to be a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Mantfombi Dlamini’s son, Misuzulu Zulu is the oldest surviving son of the late king and the reigning king of the Zulu kingdom. Although he has already been appointed king, his coronation is yet to happen. The late great wife lived in Kwa-Khangelamankengane Royal House, Nongoma.
Queen Thandekile Jane Ndlovu
Also known as Thandi, Queen Thandekile Jane Ndlovu is the fourth wife of the late King Goodwill. The pair got married in 1988. She may not be the most vocal of the six wives of the late Zulu king, but she seems to be well educated. More so, she has a career life and worked with the Provincial Department of Health in Kwazulu Natal.
This union produced three children, including Prince Sihlangu Zulu and Princess Mukelile Zulu. She lives in Linduzulu Royal House, Nongoma.
Queen Nompumelelo Mchiza
When King Goodwill decided to get married to Nompuelelo in 1992, there were many questions asked regarding the lady in question who was only 19 years old at the time. Chief among the questions was that Nompuelelo was from the Xhosa tribe, a tribe that was known to be the arch-rival of the Zulus. The union had political undertones as she was from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela who was president of South Africa at the time.
While she may not be Zulu, Nompumelelo Mchiza was brought up in Zululand and her father worked in KwaZulu for the department of education. Because of her long stay among the Zulus, it was claimed that she learned about their culture, including the reed dance. She decided to take part in it and the king selected her. For her lobola, the late king gave her family 21 cows.
The marriage was blessed with three children, Princess Nqobangothando Zulu, Prince Nhlangano Zulu, and Princess Cebo Zulu. The queen lives in oSuthu Royal House, Nongoma.
Queen Zola Zelusiwe Mafu
The last of the Late King Goodwill Zwelithini’s wives is Queen Zola Zelusiwe Mafu who was born in 1986. The first time she was sighted by the king was in the 2003 reed dance when she was only 17 years old. Not minding that there was a 40-year old age difference between them, she was whisked away by the royal house, only to reappear with the king a year later in 2004 as his wife.
When she gave birth in 2005, the news scandalized the royal house as it was yet to get the consent of her parents or pay lobola for the young bride who was then in matric. Nothing more was said about their marriage until 2008 when it was reported that the king had paid 20 cows as lobola and wedding plans were already underway. Different factors stalled the wedding until 2014.
Queen Zola and the late king only had a child between them, Prince Nhlendlayenkosi Zulu who is the youngest of the late King’s children. She lives in Ondini Royal House, Ulundi, and doesn’t seem to be very much involved in the power play.
How Mantfombi Dlamini Became The Great Wife
Even though she is neither the first nor the second wife of the late king, she still emerged as the great wife, ahead of the two older wives. By virtue of this, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu becomes the senior wife even though there were others before her. Also, the Zulu culture recognizes the great wife as the one who is married to give birth to the heir to the throne.
She was also considered to be the senior wife of the late king because she was married to the king during his reign and also because she had royal blood. Interestingly, their marriage was considered mainly to be some sort of political alliance in an attempt to foster the relationship between the Swazis as their princess at the time, and the Zulus. There have been reports that before the two got married, there were conditions laid out for the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, one of which was that the princess would become his Great Wife, to which he agreed and they got married.
After the death of the king on March 11, 2021, he left behind a will where, as expected, he named Queen Mantfombi Dlamini the queen regent. With that, she was expected to oversee the affairs of the Zulu nation until a new king, Prince Misuzulu ascends the throne. Another responsibility she had as the queen regent was to also be a part of the selection of the next king in accordance with the wishes of the late king. She had the final say as regards the next king of the Zulu Kingdom.
Her Death and The Will She Left Behind
Yet another twist was added to the already complicated plot in April, she fell ill and only two days after, she died on April 29, 2021. As stated, there were speculations that the queen was poisoned, but the royal house was quick to dispel the rumors, stating that she had been terminally ill since 2020. Even though it was made known that her husband lost his life to coronavirus and diabetes complications, the exact health issue that claimed the queen was never released to the public.
Following her memorial service, the last will and testament of Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu were read and it made a recommendation that the next King of the Zulu nation must be Misuzulu Zulu who is her oldest son and also the presumptive King of the Zulus since the death of his father in March 2021.
The Ongoing Power Tussle And Why The Late King Goodwill’s First Wife Made a Bid For The Throne
The first wife of the late king has since launched a legal battle, claiming that the will of the Goodwill to have the late queen Mantfombi Dlamini as Queen Regent was forged, hence it should be thrown aside. She also wants Misuzulu Zulu to be barred from ascending the throne, insisting that any will recommending him for the throne was also forged.
As stated, the queen is also asking to have 50% of the estate of the late King because, according to her, she was the only one who was married in a community of property with Goodwill. Because of this, she wants to have half of all that he owned while cutting out all the other wives, insisting that she was the only one who was legally married to the late King.
Queen Sibongile Winifred Dlamini has asked the court to recognize only her as the legal wife of the late king, thereby barring anyone who is not from her family from ascending the throne and thereby, not recognizing Misuzulu. She has the support of her daughters, princesses Ntandoyenkosi Zulu and Ntombizosuthu Zulu-Duma in this bid.
In a fightback, King Misuzulu kaZwelithini has made a move to nullify the marriage between King Goodwill Zwelithini and Queen Sibongile. Misuzulu and his lawyers reportedly filed a suit in an effort to make the marriage between the late king and his first wife null and void, and they have served the documents to the queen and her two daughters. In his attempt, the king is said to have the support of some faction of the royal house even as there is also a faction that still aligns with the queen.
Who Is Likely To Have The Last Laugh Between Misuzulu And Queen Sibongile Winifred Dlamini?
With the death of the queen regent before a new king ascends the throne, there seems to be a power vacuum in the Zulu Kingdom, even though the prime minister of the kingdom, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, made it clear that there is no leadership vacuum in the Zulu Nation.
Being the son of the late king’s great wife and named by the regent as the one to succeed the throne, the odds favor Misuzulu Sinqobile kaZwelithini to be crowned as the next king of the Zulu kingdom. That said, the succession battle is sure to continue for a while since the first wife is also laying a claim to the throne for her heir and Misuzulu wants to have her stripped of entitlement as the wife of the late king by making their marriage null and void.
One of the few cards Dlamini has to get the seat once occupied by the great Shaka for her family is the attempt to get a legal backing that would place her marriage to the king which was done under the civil law to be above all others since they were only customary. She argued that when the other queens agreed to marry the late Isilo, they knew that at some point, the marriage would be questioned.