Who will lead the Thembu kingdom?
Members of the abaThembu royal family almost came to blows yesterday after a heated debate over who should lead the nation while its embattled king, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, serves his 12-year jail term.
It was the first time that two factions supporting different people to act as king met to discuss who should lead the troubled nation.
The groups met in a tent outside the Bumbane Great Place because the gates were locked after the king had ordered, prior to his incarceration on December 30, that no one should enter.
In the meeting, those who supported the king’s son, Azenathi Dalindyebo, motivated for his rightful place on the throne because he was chosen by the king to act in his place.
But the other group preferred the king’s younger brother, Mthandeni Dalindyebo, to be the acting king instead because he is from the same house as the king – born of the same late mother uNoMoscow Dalindyebo and late father Sabata Dalindyebo.
They also argued that Azenathi was not the rightful heir because he was born “out of wedlock” and that traditionally a son “never acted on behalf of his father”, while it was acceptable for a brother to do so.
Meanwhile, outside the tent where the meeting was being held, two senior traditional leaders of the abaThembu, Zilimbola Mpahlana and Thanduxolo Mtirara had a heated exchange, with the latter calling Mpahlana a sellout.
Mtirara asked him why he was not supporting the king’s wishes that his wife, Nokwanda Dalindyebo, act on his behalf.
This comes after the king changed his mind at the 11th hour and said his wife should rule so that his son Azenathi, a third-year criminology student at the University of the Free State, could focus on his studies.
Mtirara supports Mthandeni to act as king, not Azenathi.
When asked afterwards what the confrontation was about, Mpahlana played it down, saying: “We were not fighting. It was just a debate.”
Mvezo chief Mandla Mandela also weighed in, saying that Azenathi should continue his studies and that, in future, they would love the abaThembu to be led by an educated Azenathi.
“We support the name of Mthandeni as the house of Mandela. We are not deciding on behalf on anybody. We support the three siblings of the king who said Mthandeni should act [as king],” Mandela said.
Azenathi was not present at the meeting, but Mthandeni was.
Mandela, accompanied by his wife, Mbali Makhathini, his mother Nolusapho and Mandela family elder Napilisi, were seen leaving the gathering while the meeting continued.
The king’s younger brother, Sganeko, said the king should be consulted because he was still alive.
He said he supported Azenathi to act because the king had endorsed him in public many times.
“We should not speak about the king as if he is dead. Why are we playing with something so important? This is the king’s business,” Sganeko said.
The king’s second wife, Noluntu, said: “In my view, we should put Mthandeni to act as king so that he can rebuild the great place and we will support him.”
Meanwhile, the king, who has been at Life St Dominic’s Hospital in East London since January, is said to be doing well. The king’s adviser, Phandulwazi Mhlontlo, who visited Dalindyebo on Friday, said the king was in good spirits.
“They might keep him there for the next two weeks or so to observe him. He is suffering from ulcers and depression, but his condition has improved,” he said.
He said the king still wanted his wife Nokwanda to act in his place.
“The king does not really recognise that meeting in Bumbane today [yesterday] because he wants his son to focus on school and not to be drawn into abaThembu infighting,” he said.
By the end of the meeting in Bumbane, the royal family could not agree on who would take the throne and resolved that a commission be appointed to intervene.