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.
Misuzulu Zulu, 48, ascended the throne last year after the death of his father, Goodwill Zwelithini, amid a bitter feud over the royal succession.
Overnight on Saturday, the influential Zulu prime minister, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said in a press release that the monarch had been hospitalised in the neighbouring country of Eswatini after falling ill.
The king believe he was being poisoned, after the sudden and unexpected death of one of his close advisers on Saturday, he said.
Douglas Xaba “passed on quite suddenly and that there are suspicions that he was poisoned”, said Buthelezei.
“When His Majesty began to feel unwell, he suspected that he too may have been poisoned.”
The king preferred treatment in Eswatini because “his parents had both received treatment in South Africa and subsequently died”, he said.
Several police sources in Eswatini confirmed to AFP that there was heavy security deployed at a private hospital close to the country’s royal residence.
However, Zulu’s spokesman denied later on Sunday that the sovereign was undergoing any hospital treatment.
“It appears that there is an orchestrated agenda and a desperate narrative to communicate defamatory and baseless claims of His Majesty’s ill health,” the spokesman told AFP by telephone.
“The king underwent precautionary and thorough medical exams in a context of Covid and after the sudden death of his close advisor.”
Although the title of king of the Zulu nation does not bestow executive power, the monarchs wield great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million people.
King Zwelithini, who died after more than 50 years in charge, left six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzulu is the first son of Zwelithini’s third wife, who he designated as regent in his will.
The queen however died suddenly a month after Zwelithini, leaving a will naming Misuzulu as the next king — a development that did not go down well with other family members.