AmaHlubi are taking their fight for recognition of their Kingship to court in a movement that threatens to shake the core of the Zulu Kingdom and may cause a realignment of history and modern day politics.
AmaHlubi’s kingship claim is connected to vast amounts of land across the country and may emerge as one of the largest native groups, like Xhosas, Sothos, Ndebeles, Swazis, Pedis, Shangaans and Tswanas. Anchored by the surname Radebe, the group has under it many clans including well known titles like amaZizi, amaBhele, Mthimkhulu, Bhungane etc.
Rooted in KwaZulu-Natal, north-west of Durban, and into the Eastern Cape, Amahlubi want to secede from the Zulu Kingdom. In their course to break free, they argue that their subjugation, under the Zulu Kingdom, is an anachronistic misnomer, a historically misplacement.
Amahlubi and their king, Langalibalele Radebe II (Muziwenkosi Radebe), are currently positioned as a subset of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu’s kingdom. That position is arguably an apartheid formation which was ironically elevated in the post 1994 era.
Amahlubi argue that the Nhlapho Commission, appointed by President Thabo Mbeki to investigate and clarify lines of traditional leadership caused their kingship to be relegated into a chieftaincy under the Zulu Kingdom.
They protest on a point of ‘historical fact’. They argue that the Zulu Kingdom was established in the 1800s out of an amalgamation of independent tribal groups, largely through the command of Shaka Zulu’s spear. amaHlubi were never conquered by Shaka Zulu. In fact they were a trusted ally to Shaka Zulu and made an elite military force within the Amabutho. This chapter of history is well recognised by historians who speak of the role of iziYendane, the elite military formation made by amaHlubi, who marched with Shaka Zulu. Amahlubi remained independent through Shaka’s reign and post the error of iLembe. Their Kingdom was destabilized by the colonial regime in the late 1800s when their feisty leader, King Langalibalele. He is largely known as having led one of the earliest rebellions against colonialism. “Lieutenant-Governor Sir Benjamin Pine punished the Hlubi by breaking up their location, confiscating their cattle, and imprisoning Langalibalele on Robben Island. Langalibalele was therefore one of the first Black activists to be banished to Robben Island, nearly a century before Nelson Mandela and numerous other activists were imprisoned there.” (Sahistory.org.za)
AmaHlubi have captured their legal claim as follows: “the amaHlubi should be accorded the same status and recognised as a nation, in the same way as amaXhosa, baTswana, amaNdebele etc
“iSilo Langalibalele II should be accorded his rightful status as the King of amaHlubi. As the amaHlubi are now found in both Natal and the Eastern Cape (and some in Rusternburg), the King should be officially recognised in all the areas where there is amaHlubi under a senior traditional leader.”
They protest that “Langalibalele I, who was king of the amaHlubi until his arrest and deposition in 1873, died under house arrest as a prisoner in 1889. As a result, his successors were never returned to the throne. The consequence of this is that his successor, Ingonyama Muziwenkosi, Langalibalele II, is categorised by national and provincial government as a chief within the KwaZulu/Natal province, making him and his people in Natal (and elsewhere), subjects of another king. This is despite the fact that he has in excess of twenty (20) senior traditional leaders all over South Africa who pay allegiance to him.”
This claim comes to challenge the declaration that elevated King Goodwill Zwelithini as the only paramount chief of KwaZulu-Natal. This was achieved through the Traditional Leaders and Governance Act, Act 5 of 2005 “that constitutionally guarantees and entrenches the Sovereignty of the Zulu Monarch and the Royal family in KwaZulu Natal.”
Challenging the positioning of the Zulu monarch, comes with political implications with the reigning King Goodwill Zwelithini having moved closer to the ANC of President Jacob Zuma.