‘Take his crown’
Convicted abaThembu king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s ex-wife Noluntu wants him dethroned but not thrown into jail
She wants him dethroned, but she doesn’t want him to go to jail. Queen Noluntu Dalindyebo has opened up for the first time about what she describes as a “complicated” on-off relationship with the controversial abaThembu king, Buyelekhaya royal family. To pave the way for a royal wife, they agreed to a divorce that was finalised in 2002, she explained.
“I was prepared to groom the royal wife and make her feel comfortable. Her lobola was to be paid by the abaThembu nation, as she belonged to the entire nation. But this never materialised. Even today, abaThembu still don’t have an heir,” she said.
“I think he took the whole thing as a joke instead of a fundamental custom.” Instead, she said, her husband took other commoner wives. At a meeting at the Bumbane Great Place in October, the king said the country’s “royal families” expected him to “beg” to marry one of their daughters, which he was not prepared to do. The couple soon started to have “differences”.
She moved out of the Bumbane Great Place in 2002 against the king’s wishes and into a modest threebedroom home she had built about 20km from Mthatha.
“I wanted to have my own place, where I could have peace of mind. I am just finishing it [the house], doing tiling and other things at the moment,” she said.
But moving out of the Great Place came years after she had assumed abaThembu’s highest office – queen regent – in which she acted on behalf of her then husband, who had been studying at the time.
In 1997, Noluntu, a qualified biology and agriculture teacher, resigned from Milton Mbekela Senior Secondary School in Qunu to serve as queen regent after being recommended by a number of the nation’s elders, including then president Nelson Mandela.
Getting the nod from a global icon was “humbling”.
“I think Tata had confidence in me because I was educated and possessed leadership qualities. I think the nation was very stable under my stewardship.
“This is partly because I was a regent and acting on behalf of my husband. I did not want to disappoint him or the people who had entrusted me with that responsibility,” she said.
During her five-year reign, from 1997, she built the king’s six-rondavel palace, the Bumbane Great Place.
“When I handed the reins back to my husband, he wrote a letter to me, saying I had managed to run the kingdom smoothly and had developed a good relationship with the chiefs. He appreciated my contribution as queen regent at the time,” she said.
Besides being queen regent, Noluntu was the founding president of Imbumba Yamakhosikazi Akomkhulu, an organisation of the wives of kings and chiefs that addresses issues facing rural women.
She is also a member of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders and a provincial executive member of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA in the Eastern Cape. She is also a businesswoman and involved in a company that supplies tyres to the taxi industry.
Although she was reluctant to talk about her husband’s rule in the years after she handed back the reins, she admitted that there was instability in the nation, particularly with the king now facing the prospect of 12 years in jail.
She said the royal family was in tatters and at least one community project had been derailed.
“Today, things are upside down in the kingdom. There is no peace and stability – in the family and the entire nation. There is no dignity, no respect and no one is taking responsibility. It is just constant fighting.”
BIG CHIEF Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo (left) appoints new Hala chief Zwelodumo Sindile Mtirara