Neu­tral judge to ad­ju­di­cate abaThembu act­ing king­ship bat­tle

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

The bat­tle over who is act­ing king of abaThembu played it­self out at the East­ern Cape High Court, Gra­ham­stown, this week.

A judge was spe­cially sourced from KwaZulu-Natal to ad­ju­di­cate the case.

KwaZulu-Natal deputy Judge Pres­i­dent Isaac Madondo flew to the East­ern Cape to hear the case of who should be act­ing in the place of in­car­cer­ated abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.

Dalindyebo is serv­ing a 12-year prison sen­tence for seven counts of kid­nap­ping, three of as­sault, three of ar­son and for de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice.

The bat­tle for act­ing king is be­tween Dalindyebo’s el­dest son, Prince Azenathi, and the jailed king’s brother, Prince Mthandeni.

Mthandeni for­mally re­quested that an out­side judge with no ties to the East­ern Cape be as­signed to the mat­ter. He ar­gued that judges in the East­ern Cape would not be im­par­tial as they worked with Ase­n­athi’s mother, Judge Buy­iswa NoCol­lege Ma­jiki.

Mthandeni ap­proached the high court in a bid to have his nephew’s recog­ni­tion as act­ing abaThembu king set aside.

East­ern Cape pre­mier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle recog­nised Azenathi as act­ing king for a year end­ing in Au­gust 2018. This de­spite a rec­om­men­da­tion by the Tolo Com­mis­sion that Mthandeni should act as king in his jailed brother’s place. A new process has started to de­ter­mine whether Azenathi’s act­ing king­ship should be re­newed or he should be re­placed.

The mat­ter has deeply di­vided the en­tire abaThembu na­tion be­tween those who sup­port Mthandeni and those that want Azenathi to re­main as act­ing king while his fa­ther serves his 12-year jail term. There is also a third fac­tion, although not as vo­cal as the other two, which sup­ports one of the king’s wives, Nok­wanda, to be an act­ing re­gent.

A con­tentious is­sue in court was the ex­act pe­riod for which one was sup­posed to act as king. The pre­mier had ini­tially said the pe­riod was re­view­able af­ter one year, but later con­ceded that he had erred as it turned out the act­ing po­si­tion had to be re­viewed af­ter six months.

But to the shock of Mthandeni and his sup­port­ers the pre­mier again changed his mind, say­ing the act­ing po­si­tion would be re­view­able af­ter three years.

In court Azenathi was flanked by var­i­ous elders, in­clud­ing his un­cle Prince Si­ganeko Dalindyebo. Mthandeni also at­tended and was ac­com­pa­nied by the chair­man of the Royal House for the King­dom of abaThembu, Nkosi Than­dux­olo Mti­rara.

Si­ganeko and the elders ac­com­pa­ny­ing Azenathi re­fused to com­ment un­til af­ter the high court made its judg­ment.

Mti­rara, speak­ing on be­half on Mthandeni, lashed out at pre­mier Ma­su­alle for his recog­ni­tion of Azenathi. Mti­rara said this de­ci­sion was the root cause of all the con­fu­sion and fight­ing within abaThembu na­tion.

Mti­rara told City Press that the royal fam­ily have yet to un­der­stand the pre­mier’s ra­tio­nale be­hind recog­nis­ing Azenathi. He ac­cused the pre­mier of sow­ing di­vi­sions within the na­tion by choos­ing sides and recog­nis­ing Azenathi, a fourth-year crim­i­nol­ogy stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Free State in Bloem­fontein, as act­ing king, since the prince would have to leave the East­ern Cape and re­turn to school.

Ad­vo­cate Matthew Mphahlwa, in his ca­pac­ity as royal ad­viser to Mthandeni, said they were con­fi­dent in the case ad­vanced in court and were await­ing the de­ci­sion by the judge. Ad­vo­cate Apla Bod­lani, who rep­re­sented Azenathi, re­fused to com­ment.

The pre­mier’s spokesper­son, Son­wabo Mbananga, said Ma­su­alle would only be able to com­ment once the court had made a rul­ing.

“The courts take prece­dence and he must wait for that process,” Mbananga said.

He added that the pre­mier was guided by law when mak­ing his de­ci­sion about how long an act­ing king can stand.

Judge Madondo re­served judg­ment and the date for the ver­dict was not set.

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