AbaThembu traditional leaders are accusing the premier of the Eastern Cape of sowing division within their nation by siding with a faction in the royal family’s dispute over who should act as king following the incarceration of king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo. Premier Phumulo Masualle, who is also the chairperson of the ANC in the province, is at the centre of a bitter fight between two warring factions of the core royal family of the abaThembu. The nation was required to elect an acting king after Buyelekhaya’s imprisonment in December 2015.On one side is the Ngangelizwe royal family, led by Nkosi Thanduxolo Mtirara, which wants Prince Mthandeni Mankunku Dalindyebo, the king’s younger brother, to act as king. The amaDlomo royal family, led by Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara, the younger brother of Thanduxolo, supports Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo, the king’s eldest son. Masualle chose Prince Azenathi to take over from February 13. He said his decision would be reviewed yearly. However, in a court challenge launched by Mthandeni, the premier said Azenathi’s acting role would be reviewed after six months, meaning that Azenathi’s term as acting king ended on August 13. AbaThembu chiefs said they were shocked to learn through the media that the premier had now said Azenathi, who is a criminology student at the University of the Free State, should continue acting as king while the process of choosing a new leader was under way.This was apparently done without consulting all parties involved.Masualle’s spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said the premier, together with the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, was consulting with the family about reviewing the acting position. He said the expiry of Azenathi’s acting period did not mean the throne had become vacant. Azenathi would continue to act until the review process was concluded, and he was still eligible for reappointment should the family agree. In a meeting at the Botha Sigcau Building in Mthatha on Thursday, which was also attended by Mthandeni, some abaThembu chiefs tore into the premier, accusing him of poor leadership and indecisiveness. Thanduxolo said he expected the premier to write to him – he is the chairperson of the Ngangelizwe royal family – to tell him that Azenathi’s term had ended, but that this has not happened. He said they objected to being led by Azenathi, who is based in Bloemfontein, as this left the kingdom unstable. “Again, the premier gives this student a salary and car. [Masualle] does not recognise our suffering. He thinks this is a joke,” a visibly angry Thanduxolo told traditional leaders. He said he was also offended that Masualle was recognising the amaDlomo faction led by Thandisizwe, who is “junior” to him in terms of custom.Mthandeni and the premier will once again battle it out in court.Mbananga did not want to comment on the attacks on the premier, instead saying that everything would be resolved in court.