Kingship tussle affects kinship
The abaThembu royal family is divided over who should stand in for the nation’s jailed king – his son or his brother?
Barely a month after members of the abaThembu royal family appointed Mthandeni Dalindyebo as acting king, another group in the royal family has endorsed his nephew, Azenathi, for the same position. This thwarts any prospects of unity in the kingdom of jailed monarch Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.
There are now two acting abaThembu kings, appointed by two factions of the Ngangelizwe royal family. Mthandeni (47) is the king’s younger brother, who was recommended by the Tolo Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims as the rightful person to take the king’s place. Azenathi (24) is the king’s eldest son. Last week, Azenathi spoke for the first time of the impasse while addressing a meeting of abaThembu in KwaZulu-Natal. He said that since he was the heir apparent, he should be the acting king.
He reminded the audience that he had received the blessings of his jailed father, the royal family and the abaThembu’s national executive committee located in KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces. However, he adopted a reconciliatory tone in his speech, calling on his uncle Mthandeni to unify the family.
The tension within the abaThembu nation was precipitated by the incarceration of controversial king Buyelekhaya, who is serving a 12-year sentence at East London Correctional Centre in the Eastern Cape. His crimes include arson, kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and defeating the ends of justice.
Mthandeni also broke his silence after being appointed as acting king by family members on October 21, during a meeting of the Ngangelizwe royal house, which has the authority to deal with the internal affairs of the kingdom of abaThembu.
Attending that meeting were Nkosi Zwelodumo Mtirara and his cousin, Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara. They came on behalf of the faction endorsing Azenathi. At the meeting, which took place – in accordance with abaThembu custom – at the jailed king’s home at Bumbane Great Place, near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, both men registered their opposition to Mthandeni’s appointment.
Zwelodumo claimed to represent “the core” royal family, which wanted to respect the jailed king’s directive to have his son succeed him as interim leader.
He said plans were afoot for Azenathi’s coronation ceremony to be held on November 25 at Bumbane.
“Azenathi is the only one who can act in his father’s place. This decision was made by the core royal family, which includes the siblings of the king and the king himself,” he said.
“Other people, including those who appointed Mthandeni, are just extended family members.”
Zwelodumo accused Mthandeni’s supporters of wanting to dethrone the king. He referred to a letter the group had written to President Jacob Zuma in 2012, in which they listed a number of grievances and called on the president to withdraw the certificate of recognition for the king.
“This has been part of their long-term plan to remove the king and put in their own person. We cannot allow that,” he said.
“In October last year, the king – supported by the core royal family, chiefs of abaThembu and the entire nation – appointed Azenathi as acting king. But they come and hijack the processes and appoint their own acting king.
“That is why we do not recognise Mthandeni as acting king. On November 25, we will install Azenathi to act on his father’s behalf.”
Zwelodumo described the October 21 meeting as a “farce”, saying he almost came to blows with his relative, Nkosi Thanduxolo Mtirara, who was chairing the proceedings. This was denied by Thanduxolo, who leads the Mthandeni faction and is chairperson of the royal family of the kingdom of abaThembu. He cautioned against efforts to inaugurate Azenathi before the state officially recognised him. “We have appointed Mthandeni as acting king, but have not installed him. We are waiting for government to recognise him as the legitimate acting king,” said Thanduxolo. “According to our custom, one does not install an acting king. What if Azenathi is not recognised by government and they [his supporters] have already installed him?” Thanduxolo lambasted Azenathi’s supporters. “They have no business interfering in our issues. They are in KwaZulu-Natal under King Goodwill Zwelithini. We don’t need their support on our issues,” he said. Thanduxolo said if the other group went ahead with the coronation ceremony for Azenathi, they would “just be throwing a party”, which was not recognised by abaThembu custom. He said Mthandeni remained “the only acting king of abaThembu”. Zwelodumo said they were unhappy with the Tolo Commission, which determined on October 13 that Mthandeni be acting king, saying it showed bias. Both factions have indicated their intention to take the battle to court. Mamkeli Ngam, spokesperson for the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, could not be reached for comment.
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ROYAL DECREE AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo favours his son, Azenathi, to act as monarch in his absence
Acting abaThembu king Mthandeni Dalindyebo