Efforts by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane to negotiate between two warring factions of the amaXhosa kingdom have been dealt a huge blow as disputed Xhosa King Prince Ahlangene Vulikhaya Sigcawu failed to attend a meeting called by the premier.
Now a commission of inquiry into who the rightful amaXhosa king is will finally decide the matter.
City Press has learnt that a meeting was called last Tuesday by Mabuyane in East London to which the two contenders for the throne of the amaXhosa kingdom, Prince Vulikhaya and General Derrick Mgwebi, were invited, among other interested parties. But only Mgwebi and his group (including Prince Xhanti Sigcawu, who also opposes the ascendancy of Prince Vulikhaya) attended.
The premier had also invited Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha and other senior government officials to the meeting as part of his intervention efforts.
On the day of the meeting, at Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale, Vulikhaya was introduced to amaXhosa chiefs as the new king in the presence of his rivals. These included Mgwebi, who afterwards rushed off to the meeting with the premier.
Then, just one day later, Mgwebi – a retired SA Defence Force commander and a traditional leader within the amaXhosa kingdom – was appointed by the amaGcaleka Royal House as acting king of the nation for three months.
The fight for the Xhosa throne follows the death of former king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu in November.
Commenting on why Vulikhaya, the current South African ambassador to Malawi, did not attend the meeting with the premier, his (Vulikhaya’s) spokesperson, Prince Ndabele Mtoto, said Mabuyane was the one who was supposed to approach the king, rather than summon him to East London, as he had done.
“The premier did write us a letter inviting us to a meeting with him, the cooperative governance MEC and other stakeholders and officials in a bid to intervene in this matter.
“However, according to our protocol, the premier cannot invite the king to a meeting. The premier must request an audience with the king, not summon him. The king is the owner of the land, so anyone residing on the land – whether it’s a politician or a businessperson – is under his leadership,” said Mtoto.
Mgwebi confirmed that the meeting had taken place.
“The premier has followed the developments and is aware of the different points of view within the bigger family. He wanted to understand the customary laws of succession and the protocols and procedures to be followed. We were sharing those with him and the others at the meeting,” said Mgwebi.
He said the different factions needed to go back to the drawing board and discuss what needed to be done, in terms of such customary laws and procedures.
“It’s critical that we find each other and move forward. That’s what we’re trying to do in order to prevent confusion that would lead to the nation having two kings,” said Mgwebi.
It has also emerged that some contenders to the throne, who were disqualified as early as last November, had demanded that all claimants be subjected to a DNA test to prove their paternity. However, this had been rejected by the royal family, as it could damage the kingdom’s reputation.
Mtoto said the family had its own way of deciding the paternity of children and that DNA testing was a concept foreign to amaXhosa.
“It would be a great embarrassment to the family, the wives and children of the late King Xolilizwe [King Zwelonke and Vulikhaya’s father] and the entire nation if the amaXhosa didn’t have their own way of dealing with these matters.”
Mabuyane said he was disappointed by the rivalry.
“We need a process that’s just, fair and objective, and which listens to all sides in order to find a solution. We’re in that process. We called a meeting in a bid to intervene and plead with the different factions to sit down and talk, but it’s not easy for them to do that. Some came, others didn’t. It seems there’s a lot of mistrust.
So we now have to follow other government processes, such as a commission of inquiry, where people come and explain why they believe this or that person should be king, what their birthright is and what the customary laws of the amaXhosa dictate,” said Mabuyane.