Government to mediate after disdain shown for Zulu leaders who don’t have a tradition of circumcision
An explosive dispute brewing between Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma on one side,
and amaMpondo King Zanozuko Sigcau on the other, has
become so serious that it is being handled by a high-level government
So serious is the clash of kings – which
started with a reference by King Sigcau toKing Zwelithini and President Zuma as
“amakhwenkwe” (boys) – that it is now being handled by a senior team which
consists of a deputy minister and two directors-general.
King Sigcau referred to the two as boys because they have not undergone traditional
He made the reference two months ago at a
traditional ceremony in Mbizana, Eastern Cape, after a local organisation that
monitors traditional circumcision had invited Zwelithini to address the initiates.
King Sigcau then
allegedly questioned how “a boy” could be allowed to
stand before young men coming back from an initiation
school. He allegedly added: “Zuma is worse!”
Government sources told City Press that a furious King Zwelithini, who was informed of King Sigcau’s comments by a number of people who attended the
ceremony, raised the matter with Zuma last week, at the start of Heritage Month.
City Press understands that he complained to Zuma during
the annual reed dance at his palace in Nongoma.
Zuma then immediately set up a mediation team
led by Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta)
On Friday, Bapela’s spokesperson, Sifiso Ngcobo, said the team also
included presidency director-general Cassius Lubisi and his Cogta counterpart,
Speaking during an address to the Cogta
portfolio committee in Parliament, Bapela this week said the mediation team had
been established “because the Zulu king wants the other
kingto come and tell him why he
called him a boy”.
Bapela was speaking about an audit of traditional leaders and the
cultural practice of initiation.
“It is a serious matter, and we really ought to be sensitive to cultural practices.
Don’t impose things,” said Bapela, who added that the issue was “sparking
“Calling a president and another king boys
[is wrong]. In their culture, they are men,” he
Bapela said government was involved in
mediation, as there was no mechanism within the house of traditional leaders
that could deal with a dispute between kings.
“It’s two national groups that are different.
We need to emphasise that culture must be practised, but
we should respect the individual choices people have taken,” said Bapela.
He spoke about the societal pressure and peer pressure – especially
in the Eastern Cape – that was exerted on boys and grown mento undergo circumcision.
“Let’s educate South Africans about their
cultures and traditions. You don’t have to impose
something that somebody is not practising on them. If I am pro-culture, leave me
in the space – according to my traditions and customs –
to practise them. If I am not, you don’t have to condemn me and call me names,” he said.
Ngcobo told City Press that government officials were due to visit the Mpondo Royal House to tell
King Sigcau about King
Zwelithini’s concerns, and to arrange for a meeting
Speaking for Zwelithini, royal council member Prince Thulani Zulu
said that if the insults were proved to have been said,
“it is not good at all. It doesn’t go down well when a respected figure in the
community insults a king of another nation in
public ... It’s really bad.”
Zulu said they had been waiting to hear from King Sigcau about why he
called the Zulu king a boy, and whether he was sorry
about his comments. “We are waiting to hear from him
about what this is all about,” added Zulu.
In the meantime, the Zulu Royal House reported the matter to the chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional
Leaders and to an executive member of the National House
of Traditional Leaders, because they could not investigate the matter
themselves. Zulu said he was not aware of the investigation’s progress, or
whether they had investigated at all.
Zulu said he was also unaware of the high-level government team
dealing with the matter, and was not able to say whether
King Zwelithini had reported the matter to Zuma.
“It happens that the king is with the
president, but I do not know what they talk about,” he said.
King Sigcau’s spokesperson, Ntsizakalo
Ngalo, told City Press yesterday that the king had read
about the insults attributed to him in local newspapers.
He said the Mpondo royal family was discussing the matter with the Zulu
“To clear the matter between himself and the
Zulu king, the royal family from our side is engaging
with the Zulu royal council led by Prince Thulani and Prince Mboneni, the king’s brothers,” he said.
When told that Prince Thulani Zulu was not aware of such talks,
Ngalo insisted they were taking place, saying: “I know there are those
Ngalo said he heard of the government’s intervention for the first
time when City Press called him yesterday. He added that Bapela had not
mentioned the matter toKing Sigcau
when they had been together at a function in Limpopo.
Presidency spokesperson Bongani Majola said he was not aware that
the president gave orders for a government intervention and said he knew
nothing of any government mediation.
King Sigcau’s kingship is disputed among
amaMpondo. He was confirmed by Zuma as the rightful king
of amaMpondo ase Qaukeni in November 2010 following a recommendation by the
However in 2013, the Constitutional Court overturned that decision
and set aside his kingship. Despite this, he has continued to hold on to the title.