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Traditional leadership’s statue of shame

13 July 2013, 20:20

In my article on Column, Battle of Ideas (The paradox of modern day traditional leadership, The Weekly, 28 September – 04 October 2012), I asked: “What is the relationship between the entitlements we apportion to the traditional leaders and the services they deliver to the public?

Little did I know that, slightly less than a year after asking this question, a tense war would erupt in the Mandela family that would also involve senior members of the AbaThembu royal family. At the centre of the wars are the graves of former ANC president Nelson Mandela’s children, the legitimacy of Nelson Mandela’s grandson as the chief of Mvezo, and the multi-million estate of the world icon when he finally departs from the world of the living.

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, who is a senior to Chief Mandla Mandela, responds to the dilemma by throwing tantrums at everybody and everything he disagrees with. At first he threatened to unilaterally dethrone Chief Mandla as traditional leader of Mvezo and surrounding areas. In fact, King Dalindyebo announced that he had dethroned Chief Mandla with immediate effect. His reason was that Chief Mandla had brought shame to the MaDlomo clan through his wrangles with other members of the Mandela family.

Rather than call all these ‘children’ or subjects under one roof, and interrogate them in order to get an amicable solution, the King smiles in front of the flashing cameras and excitedly claims the he will dethrone the Mvezo chief. This character is not befitting of a leader, more so a traditional leader. A traditional leader must move beyond the celebrity and bling shenanigans of those involved. He must lead them to an amicable solution. This will ensure that such a leader is remembered by society even many years to come.

Asked by some people about his excessive use of banned substance dagga, the king responded: “I will stop smoking dagga the day Zuma stops being corrupt”. Being a leader, King Dalindyebo should know that there are ways of addressing your leader, which in this case is the head of state. Such comments can be expected from shebeen patrons who have succumbed to the powerful force of alcoholic beverages. Not from a king. Even if you may dislike a leader, there are ways a reasonable person can express such resentment towards a leader.

Secondly, it is a known fact that dagga is characterised as a drug in South African law. So, as a leader, King Dalindyebo is expected to lead his subjects to respect the laws, not to lead them towards disrespecting the same laws. A traditional leader does not operate outside of the country’s legal system. He is an indispensable part thereof. So this is clear display of irresponsible leadership.

In a sequel to the article I mentioned above (The paradox of modern day traditional leadership: Part II, The Weekly, 05 – 12 October 2012) I wrote; “During the initiation season, each relevant royal house must develop a clear programme to visit all initiation schools operating in their area of jurisdiction. These road shows must ensure, amongst others; 1) that all illegal schools are closed; 2) that all potential fatalities are averted, and; 3) that all relevant authorities are involved in this colourful practice of lebollo (rite of passage for boys and girls).”

Rather than do the above, the AbaThembu King went vitriol calling the President of the Republic a “nonsensical Zulu boy”. Neither was Mvezo chief interested. His eyes were fixed at the riches associated with the eventuality of Mandela’s death. At the same time, more than 30 initiates died in initiation schools around Eastern Cape. And more than 300 were sent to hospitals for treatments related to the practice. For the king, and his Mvezo chief, it was more crucial to focus on petty family squabbles, and to encourage people to vote for the Democratic Alliance (DA), rather than allow his subjects chose a political party of their choice.

The primary goal of the current ANC-led government to embrace traditional leadership is for the restoration of our African traditions for posterity. This is no easy task. It requires visionary leadership and mature practical leadership. It is high time that the South African government actually measures if the output from traditional leaders, individually and collectively, equals the benefits and entitlements afforded to them. An objective analysis must be made to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not thrown into a pond of trash. Such an analysis must ensure that never again should our people be subjected to poor and immature leadership as witnessed in the AbaThemebu saga. 

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