People think we’re murderers

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Johannesburg

A South African princess has denied rumours that the Zulu queen who died only a month into her reign was poisoned by the royal family.

“People think we’re murderers,” Princess Thembi told local media on, amid a bitter family rift over who will become the next monarch.

Queen Mantfombi, 65, became interim leader last month after the death of her husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Days after her death of an unspecified illness a legal challenge is under way. A handwriting expert has reportedly been brought on board to try to prove that the signature on the king’s will was forged, as his daughters from his first marriage contend.

Their mother Queen Sibongile Dlamini has taken her fight for the throne to Pietermaritzburg High Court, where she is demanding a 50% share of his estate plus sole recognition as the only legal wife of the late king. The king of the 11-million strong Zulu people left six wives and 28 children.

Queen Mantfombi was named regent because she was the only wife with royal blood – her brother is King Mswati III of Eswatini.

The throne does not have formal political power and the monarch’s role within broader South African society is largely ceremonial, but they remain hugely influential and enjoy a yearly taxpayer-funded budget of more than $4.9m (£3.5m).

A public rift has opened between Princess Thembi and Prince Mbonisi, who led Sunday’s impromptu press conference, and the late queen’s Prime Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi.—Agencies