Getting rid of the King

Nelson Mandela in his tribal Xhosa garb

He is accused of insulting everyone from his brothers to Madiba, dishonouring tradition, taking drugs, handing out chieftaincies as favours and sexually abusing his relatives.

He is the king accused of a two-decade reign of terror.

This is Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, king of the AbaThembu, whose relatives have been trying to unseat him for a year.

The Thembu people are one of the handful of nations and population groups which speak Xhosa in South Africa. In Xhosa the name is abaThembu, aba- being a common prefix for peoples. In the 19th century they were frequently known as the “Tamboekie” or “Tambookie” people. The most internationally famous Thembu person is Nelson Mandela, whose father was a reigning nobleman from a junior branch of the Madiba clan of kings.

The fight has become more public recently, with Dalindyebo openly insulting President Jacob Zuma, who has failed to withdraw Dalindyebo’s kingship as the royal family requested.

A year ago, the royal family wrote a lengthy memo listing their grievances about their king. This memo was used in September last year as the basis of the royal family’s decision to remove Dalindyebo as king.

The memo and minutes of that meeting were then sent to then minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs Richard Baloyi and Zuma to finalise the dethroning.

But a year later, the minister and the president have still not done this. The royal family believe that the former minister was the cause of the delay.

The Presidency referred The Star’s queries on this to the ministry, and the ministry – under both Baloyi and now Lechesa Tsenoli – failed to respond to queries.

The memo was written by Nkosi Daludumo Lindikhaya Mtirara, a senior member of the AbaThembu Traditional Council and Dalindyebo’s uncle.

The memo lists dozens of complaints about Dalindyebo.

“The kingdom is in crisis under the guidance of the current king,” said Mtirara.

“The king is not ready and has no interest in the affairs of the kingdom, chieftainship, including values, principles, ethics, standards, process and procedures.”

Dalindyebo became king in July 1992. He succeeded his father, Sabata Jonguhlanga, who died in exile in 1986 and is regarded as an anti-apartheid hero for his opposition to homeland rule.

On Tuesday Dalindyebo’s lawyer, Zehir Omar, linked the removal matter to the 2009 conviction. He was confident the conviction would be overturned on appeal and that Dalindyebo would thus not be removed as king.

He referred to the rest as untested allegations. “In every family there are undertones of envy and jealousy,” said Omar.

He said the king was “immersed in personal troubles” and very affected by the hospitalisation of Mandela.

“When a loved one like Mandela is in hospital for a long time… it causes havoc psychologically among the family.”

The allegations include:

* Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s 2009 conviction for culpable homicide and 15-year sentence. He is still out on bail pending an appeal.

Recently, The Star reported that the Mthatha High Court ordered officials to reconstitute missing court records so that the appeal can go ahead.

* Dalindyebo proposed that the kingdom secede from South Africa, which caused division.

* He was accused of sexually assaulting three female relatives, then trying to convince them to withdraw charges.

* He allegedly persuaded a man to pose as the father of one victim, “to ensure that the Department of Home Affairs gives her the necessary documentation to cross the country so that evidence for prosecution for alleged rape cases is destroyed”.

* He publicly insulted a range of people, including relatives, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet, the late Kaizer Matanzima and Madiba.

* He expelled his mother Nomoscow and siblings from the royal household and later dishonoured her funeral.

* He publicly spoke “of his sexual interest” in female relatives, said women “are the gifts/presents that he prefers”, and there is suspicion “that he has even fathered some of the family members”.

* He dishonoured rituals, such as allowing unauthorised people to handle ritual matters, and disregarded traditions and customs.

* He failed to honour funerals of various close family members, insulted people at funerals, arrived “unpresentable” and late at a funeral, and disrupted proceedings.

* He smokes dagga in public.

* He established or upgraded chieftaincies unprocedurally.

* He unlawfully incorporated people from KwaZulu-Natal into the AbaThembu.

* He was “unable to identify the level (strategic, operational and tactical) where a king should operate”.

* He considers only those close to him for chieftaincies and headmanships.

* He was involved in assaulting a nursing sister and a security officer at a Mthatha hospital.

* He tried to remove traditional leaders from their posts.

* He “successfully created the chieftainship of Mvezo with expectation for the fulfilment of a quid pro quo. Currently, he is fighting against the same institution,” said the memo.

* Family members no longer attend the king’s meetings because of his lack of respect for them.

Kings get an official certificate of recognition issued by the president and receive a state salary of about R1 million a year, plus various other state-funded benefits.

The legal process for dethroning them is set out in the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003.- IOL