As AbaThembu meet, who is next in line to the throne?

2014-08-03 06:00

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The AbaThembu nation will meet today to discuss the fate of its king, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.

All the people of Thembuland – including those based in KwaZulu-Natal and in neighbouring countries – have been summoned to the great place at Nkululekweni in Mthatha.

There is no reliable figure for the number of people in the AbaThembu nation, but there are an estimated 500 000 in Mthatha alone.

President Jacob Zuma wrote to Dalindyebo last week demanding he provide representation within 30 days to explain why the president should not withdraw the certificate that recognises him as king of the AbaThembu.

Most of the people expected at today’s meeting support the king, but behind the scenes discussion is raging about who will take over the throne should Zuma remove him.

Among the names being bandied around is that of the king’s younger brother, Prince Jongisizwe Dalindyebo, who is part of the group that wrote to Zuma in 2012 calling for the monarch’s removal.

He is seen as the most legitimate successor because he comes from the same senior house as the king, with whom he shares both father and mother.

Jongisizwe and Buyelekhaya have been long estranged.

Jongisizwe has refused to comment on any regal aspirations. But the part of the royal family that wants Dalindyebo dethroned wants Jongisizwe for the position.

Royal family spokesperson Daludumo Mtirara patted Jongisizwe on the shoulder during a press conference on Thursday and said he could learn a great deal from his older brother’s mistakes.

The other name mentioned is the king’s son, Azanathi Dalindyebo (22), born from Dalindyebo’s marriage to his first wife. Despite being the king’s first male child, Azanathi’s chances could be scuppered because his mother is not the royal wife, chosen by the royal family.

Dalindyebo has five wives and infamously told the royal family in 2012 that if they chose a wife for him they should be prepared to sleep with her themselves.

Azanathi could not be reached for comment.

The third could-be king is Mfundo Mtirara. The group opposing Dalindyebo have accused Mtirara, who speaks on the king’s behalf, of only pretending to support the monach and harbouring ambitions of his own.

A senior chief, he is also from the royal family.

But Mtirara said he did not want to comment on gossip.

“All I know is that king Zwelibanzi [Buyelekhaya] is the king of AbaThembu and its leader. I will stand by king Zwelibanzi with or without the certificate of recognition … he is a king because he was born. Whether government recognise him or not, he is a king because he is head of our family.”

How the royal rules work

This is how the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act lays out the process for choosing a monarch:

Whenever the position of a king or a queen is to be filled, the royal family must, within a reasonable time after the need arises, and with due regard to applicable customary law –

»Identify a person who qualifies in terms of customary law to assume the position of a king or a queen, as the case may be;

»Inform the president of the country, the premier of the province concerned and the minister (of cooperative governance and traditional affairs) of the particulars of the person so identified to fill the position of a king or a queen;

»Provide the president with the reasons for the identification of that person as a king or a queen; and

»Give written confirmation to the president that the premier of the province concerned and the minister have been informed accordingly.

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