On Thursday, in a dramatic twist to the amaXhosa kingdom battle, a rival faction appointed retired SA National Defence Force (SANDF) General Derrick Daliwonga Mgwebi as acting king.
This comes exactly a week after the Sigcawu royal family announced that South Africa’s ambassador to Malawi, Prince Ahlangene Vulikhaya Sigcawu, as the new king of the amaXhosa, following the death of King Zwelonke Sigcawu in November.
On Tuesday, the Sigcawu royal family introduced Vulikhaya to the traditional leaders of the amaXhosa as the new monarch.
On Friday, a traditional ceremony was conducted at the Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale to present Vulikhaya as the new Xhosa king before he was introduced to the media by the family.
However, on Thursday, Mgwebi – who is also a traditional leader of the amaXhosa – was nominated by the amaGcaleka royal house as caretaker king for the next three months while a new permanent monarch is sought.
In February, the Sigcawu royal family forwarded the name of Vulikhaya as king to the MEC of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Xolile Nqatha, as well as Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.
The premier then sent the endorsement of Prince Vulikhaya to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who – by law – is the only person who may issue a certificate of recognition to a monarch.
However, before Ramaphosa could do so, he received a letter from Mgwebi lodging an objection to Vulikhaya being nominated as king.
In his letter, Mgwebi said he disputed the processes that led to the identification of Vulikhaya as the Xhosa monarch. This formal objection means that Ramaphosa can only issue a certificate of recognition to Vulikhaya after the matter is resolved.
Vulikhaya, who addressed the meeting of the amaXhosa traditional leaders on Tuesday, named Mgwebi as one of the people sowing divisions within the family, adding that Mgwebi was a junior traditional [headman] leader who did not have the authority to interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of amaXhosa, especially regarding the succession of the monarch.
Mgwebi, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting, sat behind the podium quietly and left as soon as the meeting was adjourned.
After his appointment on Thursday, Mgwebi said the royal family, together with amaGcaleka, needed to come together and, following the customs and law of succession, agree on who should be identified as the new king.
Mgwebi said Thursday’s meeting was held so that the amaGcaleka royal family could inform the regional chiefs of the decision of the family and give them an opportunity to comment and consent.
He said there could not be two kings in the amaXhosa nation and his faction was reaching out to the other one to come to the negotiating table.
Mgwebi said it was sad to see the house of Sigcawu, which was the ruling family of the Xhosa kingdom, being torn apart over who should accede to the throne.
“We’re one family. Yes, there’s a difference of opinion about who should finally be the king, but somebody has to stand up and bring everybody together under one roof to reconcile the factions and finally name a king whose succession nobody will dispute,” he said.
Prince Ndabele Mtoto, spokesperson for the Sigcawu royal family, said there was only one king of the Xhosa nation and nobody could be appointed as a caretaker king when a monarch had already been appointed by the family.
Mtoto said he was disappointed in Mgwebi, whose aim seemed to be to destroy the Sigcawu family so that he could claim the throne for himself.
“Mgwebi was at the meeting we held on Tuesday. He sat there throughout it and didn’t utter a word. He had every right to raise his hand to tell us that what we were doing was wrong and register his objection. He could have stood up and said he didn’t recognise Vulikhaya as king. But he didn’t. That means he was among those on Tuesday who endorsed Vulikhaya’s nomination.
“However, just two days later, Mgwebi held his own meeting with his people and was appointed as caretaker king. What does that tell you about his character? He’s just greedy and ambitious and will stop at nothing to destroy this kingdom,” said Mtoto.