While both ANC NEC member and Police Minister Bheki Cele and KZN premier Willies Mchunu were present at the imbizo, neither spoke at the event.

Niehaus’s apology was met rapturous applause and laughter from the 4,000-strong crowd, which included ambutho and indunas.

It was a matter of hours, however, before Niehaus was reined in by ANC elections head Fikile Mbalula, who said the MKMVA veteran had spoken out of turn.

But Mbalula admitted that there was an urgent need for the top leaders of the ANC to meet with the king to dispel the notion that the party was anti-Zulu.

“The ANC has got no view to take any land in the hands of the Zulu nation; the ANC has never formulated a view. We will engage with the king to articulate this and make the position of the ANC very clear. The ANC president will lead that process‚” he said in a statement on Thursday.

King Goodwill Zwelithini’s thinly veiled call for the secession of KwaZulu-Natal could leave the ANC divided – with “Zuluness” the reason for the chasm. The monarch finds himself backed into a corner with moves by the state – essentially the ANC – to dissolve the Ingonyama Trust and, with it, his absolute authority. In November last year, former president Kgalema Motlanthe, as chair of a high-level panel on key legislation, contributed to a report that recommended that the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed or amended, and that the trust be dissolved. The panel found that the trust’s current practices were inconsistent with the government’s land policy, and did not secure land tenure for residents.At a land imbizo called by the king on Wednesday, Zwelithini vowed to rebuff any attempts to claim his land. Under current legislation, he is the sole beneficiary of the Ingonyana Trust. Political analyst Jabulani Sithole said that the threat to the Ingonyama Trust and the tribal authority of...

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