Mandla Mandela is one of several chiefs who the abaThembu royal family wants Minister Zweli Mkhize to “intervene with” for not listening to acting king Azenathi Dalindyebo and for refusing to do as the king orders.
The abaThembu royals had a long list of grievances that they gave to Mkhize, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, during his visit to the Bumbane Great Place near Mthatha two weeks ago.
On the list were matters ranging from government officials refusing to hand courtesy cars to the acting king when his car broke down to the “ill discipline of chiefs who refuse to take orders”.
Speaking on Azenathi’s behalf, Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara, chairman of the amaDlomo Royal Council, said the acting king was not happy about how chiefs serving under him were behaving.
“There is ill discipline among the chiefs. We don’t know whether the legislation is weak or what. Here we have a situation whereby when chiefs are summoned to the palace by the acting king, they just defy him and say they are not accountable to him,” he said.
“We are puzzled by this because according to our knowledge, chiefs report to the kings and headmen report to chiefs. We call on the government to relook at this legislation because this causes a lot of problems where there is no order and authority. These chiefs are being paid and if they say they don’t report to the king then who do they report to and why are they paid?”
Though Mtirara did not mention any chief by name, Prince Siganeko Dalindyebo, Azenathi’s uncle, confirmed to City Press that Mandela, the chief of Mvezo, was one of those “continuously defying” the acting king.
“Yes, Mandla is one of them. He is one of them, we can’t hide that away. Almost all the abaThembu chiefs have taken it upon themselves to sit meetings in Botha Sigcau Building in Mthatha when they are supposed to report to the acting king in Bumbane. We don’t know why they do not report to the main branch where they come from,” he said.
He said as acting king, Azenathi was the chief executive of the chiefs as recognised by government.
“If they don’t report to Bumbane, where do they report to and why are they always ready to go to the bank on the 15th?” Siganeko asked.
Mandela did not respond to requests for comment, but his ally chief Thanduxolo Mtirara said they did not recognise Azenathi as acting king of abaThembu and would not take any orders from him.
Mandela, who had a fallout with Azenathi’s father, the jailed king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, was one of 16 AbaThembu royals who wrote to former president Jacob Zuma asking him to withdraw the king’s certificate of recognition for his “unroyal behaviour”, which included smoking dagga in public.
The same group wanted to install Azenathi’s uncle Prince Mankunku as acting king after King Buyelekhaya was jailed, but Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle recognised Azenathi as acting king instead.
Senior abaThembu traditional leader Nkosi Dumisani Mgudlwa, who is close to Azenathi, claimed Mandela and Thanduxolo were leading a group of dissidents who refused to take orders.
Numerous letters have been written to the two chiefs inviting them to meetings, but they ignored them.
Mgudlwa said there was “no legislation you can use to discipline a chief who disrespects your authority”, adding that the traditional affairs ministry needed to fix this to avoid a situation where there will be “two centres of power”.
“They should accept that Azenathi is the acting king of abaThembu and that he is recognised by the government as such. Why are they still fighting because clearly they are fighting a losing battle?” asked Mgudlwa.
But Thanduxolo says they are simply upholding custom.
“The chiefs of abaThembu know their tradition and know how things are supposed to be done... Azenathi summons chiefs to Bumbane where he says we refuse to come, knowing well that Bumbane was locked by his father, Buyelekhaya, when he went to jail and he too got in there via a court order,” he said.
He said custom dictated that when King Buyelekhaya was unable to perform his kingly duties, his brother, Prince Mankunku, was supposed to act in his place.
“We do not take Azenathi as acting king and there is no way we can take orders from him. Our heir and head now that Buyelekhaya is in jail is Prince Mankunku. We are not going to change that position, we are resolute on that. They can say whatever they want,” he said.
Thanduxolo said the chiefs had approached Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate whether the processes followed to appoint the acting king were above board.
Mkhize told the traditional leaders that he would take up the matters raised by the abaThembu traditional leaders with his department and respond later.
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