Court rules on amaNdebele kingship

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free reign King Makhosonke Mabena II  PHOTO: Gallo Images / City Press / Sipho Maluka
free reign King Makhosonke Mabena II PHOTO: Gallo Images / City Press / Sipho Maluka

A 32-year-long fight for the throne of the amaNdebele kingship in Mpumalanga may finally be over following a Pretoria High Court ruling that has effectively dismantled the two centres of power.

The court has entrenched King Makhosonke Mabena II as the only king of amaNdebele, according to the findings of the Nhlapo Commission.

Former president Thabo Mbeki appointed the Nhlapo Commission in 2004 to solve all clashes and misunderstandings about traditional leadership, and to determine the rightful heirs to the thrones to restore traditional leadership into its original form.

Despite the Nhlapo Commission’s finding, President Jacob Zuma declared Mbusi Mahlangu as a “deemed king” of the kingship of Ndzundza Mabhoko in the Government Gazette on November 5 2010.

This did not sit well with Mabena, who then approached the court to set Zuma’s decision aside. Judge AC Basson ordered early this year that Zuma’s notice be set aside.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen and Mahlangu, however, applied for leave to appeal the court’s order.

Basson dismissed their leave to appeal on September 23 with costs on the basis that they had no prospect to succeed in another court.

The court said that Zuma was bound to implement the Nhlapo Commission’s decision and found that the “president acted outside his powers to issue the notice”.

The ruling means that Mahlangu is dethroned as a second king in Mpumalanga and his perks might be greatly reduced.

Mahlangu and Mabena each got a Mercedes-Benz ML 500 from the Mpumalanga department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, while other traditional leaders of a lower status were bought Toyota and Ford 4x4s.

Government pays each king a salary of R1.03 million a year, while senior traditional leaders get R188 424. There is also a budget for cultural events and administration.

Department spokesperson Tsakani Baloyi was unable to respond to written questions to clarify if Van Rooyen would challenge Basson’s order. Baloyi said that she forwarded the questions to the relevant officials in the department.

Mabena’s spokesperson, Prince Msiningwa Mabena, said the king would wait for due government processes to be concluded before starting a process to unite amaNdebele.

“Ingwenyama [the king] will call an indaba to unite amaNdebele from all parts of South Africa. That won’t be easy because amaNdebele have been divided, but he will exercise perseverance to accommodate dissidents,” Prince Mabena said.

AmaNdebele have been having two kings created by the former KwaNdebele homeland government since 1984.

King Makhosonke Mabena II of the amaNdebele akwa Manala has his offices in KwaMhlanga, while King Mbusi Mahlangu of amaNdebele akwa Ndzundza Mabhoko resides in Siyabuswa.

The Nhlapo Commission’s report was released in 2010. It established that the Ndzundza Mabhoko were a junior house, which did not have a kingship. The commission established that the amaNdebele kingship resided with King Makhosonke Mabena II.

After its work, the commission determined that South Africa had seven kings – Mabena, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo (abaThembu), Goodwill Zwelithini (amaZulu), Zwelonke Sigcawu (amaXhosa), Zanozuko Sigcau (amaMpondo), Victor Thulare (BaPedi ba Maroteng) and Mphephu Ramabulana (VhaVenda).

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