President’s men to probe amaMpondo king’s insult

2015-09-13 06:22

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 team.

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 circumcision rituals.

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) Obed Bapela.

On Friday, Bapela’s spokesperson, Sifiso Ngcobo, said the team also included presidency director-general Cassius Lubisi and his Cogta counterpart, Charles Nwaila.

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 controversy”.

“Calling a president and another king boys [is wrong]. In their culture, they are men,” he said.

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 between them.

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 royals.

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 discussions.”

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 Nhlapho commission.

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.

September 15 2019