Dumisani Blasius Khumalo, a personal assistant to South Africa’s MisuZulu Zulu Kazwelithini, was reportedly assassinated by assailants on Saturday as the reed dance event went on.
In August of last year, MisuZulu was installed as queen despite dissension among the royal family.
According to AFP, the protesters have threatened and predicted a “bloodbath” if the event takes place on Saturday in the small town of Nongoma, a Zulu stronghold in the southeast KwaZulu-Natal province, where about 10,000 people have assembled.
The girls would offer themselves to the monarch of the largest ethnic group in the nation—the 11 million Zulus who make up nearly one in five South Africans—during the centuries-old tradition.
According to the story, it was King MisuZulu Zulu’s first time participating in a reed ritual.
“Khumalo was slain by unknown shooters last night (Saturday), just after attending the Reed Dance in Nongoma,” regional legislator Sihle Zikalala said on Sunday.
The king’s top counselor, Khumalo, was in charge of mediating disputes within the Zulu community.
Some communal issues in South Africa are resolved outside of a state court system, in traditional courts.
According to Khaya Ndwandwe, an authority on Zulu culture, “He was very loyal to the royal family and he worked closely with MisuZulu’s father before.”
A dispute over succession has arisen since Goodwill Zwelithini’s death last year after 50 years in power.
Traditional chiefs and rulers are recognized by the constitution in South Africa and hold a lot of moral sway.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged the birth of MisuZulu kaZwelithini, who was the third wife and favorite of Goodwill Zwelithini.
The first wife filed a lawsuit challenging the succession, but the judge dismissed the case.
The late king’s eldest son, who was born out of wedlock, filed an emergency lawsuit this week claiming he was the rightful heir. Goodwill Zwelithini’s brothers also claimed the throne for another contender. At the ceremony Saturday, the new king called for “peace and unity (to) prevail in the royal house.”