He left behind six wives and at least 28 descendants: one of the wives of the late Zulu king launched the battle in a South African court on Tuesday in the succession war for the throne.
After 50 years of rule, King Goodwill Zwelithini died in March aged 72. Named regent in his will, his third wife and favourite, Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini, appointed her son, Misuzulu Zulu, 47, to succeed the throne.
The regent died suddenly in April. The coronation has not yet taken place. The king's first wife, Queen Sibongile Dlamini, is now challenging the appointment of a new ruler in court, claiming that she is the only legitimate wife as she is the only one who had a civil marriage.
The other women, whom she considers to be mistresses, had a traditional marriage. In court in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Zulu country, she also claimed half of the royal estate.
A powerless king with moral influence over more than 11 million of South Africa's largest ethnic group, the Zulu king owned thousands of hectares of land, property, and several palaces.
"Does a civil marriage prohibit any other traditional marriage?" the queen's lawyer, Nigel Redman, asked the court, raising the question of the legality of the five subsequent marriages. In this case, "it is not just a question of the law, it is a question of the conflict between common law and customary law," said Judge Isaac Madondo.
According to some members of the ethnic group, royal cases have no place in court. Dozens of Zulu warriors in animal skins, spears, and shields protested around the court. With traditional songs, the "amabutho" accused the court of interfering with tradition.
The two daughters of Queen Sibongile Dlamini, Princesses Ntombizosuthu and Ntandoyenkosi, are also contesting the validity of the will, claiming that a graphologist has certified that the signature on the document is false.
Several members of the royal family were on the court bench, with animal skins on their shoulders or hairy crowns for the men. King Misuzulu Zulu was not present.