It’s no longer good to be the king in South Africa

President Jacob Zuma announced today that the South African government will stop recognizing about half of the country’s traditional kings and queens: The announcement came after a six-year government study into the traditional monarchies, some of which were used by the white-minority apartheid rulers as what Zuma described as a divide and rule strategy to ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images
RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images
RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

President Jacob Zuma announced today that the South African government will stop recognizing about half of the country's traditional kings and queens:

The announcement came after a six-year government study into the traditional monarchies, some of which were used by the white-minority apartheid rulers as what Zuma described as a divide and rule strategy to weaken black leaders.

Seven of the 13 kingships were approved. The other six will end when the incumbent ruler dies, Zuma told reporters.

President Jacob Zuma announced today that the South African government will stop recognizing about half of the country’s traditional kings and queens:

The announcement came after a six-year government study into the traditional monarchies, some of which were used by the white-minority apartheid rulers as what Zuma described as a divide and rule strategy to weaken black leaders.

Seven of the 13 kingships were approved. The other six will end when the incumbent ruler dies, Zuma told reporters.

"The apartheid regime created its own traditional leadership at the expense of authentic leadership in some communities," Zuma said.

The move is also a cost-cutting measure, since the government provided the kings with an annual subsidy. Interestingly, one of the kings who wasn’t eliminated, really seems to have been asking for it: 

Among the kings spared the axe was Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo of the AbaThembu clan, who has called for about half the nation — including Johannesburg — to secede from South Africa. He made his independence bid after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for charges including culpable homicide, arson and assault. That case is currently on appeal. His secession call was ignored.

Also spared were the kings of South Africa’s two largest ethnic groups, the Xhosa and the Zulu. That’s Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu next to Zuma in the photo above. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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