After the recently released king refused to see his son, who is the acting king, the abaThembu nation waits to see if there will be peace or if the bad blood will continue.
Since his release from prison late last year, abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo has refused to see his son and acting king, Azenathi.
Dalindyebo was released from the East London Correctional Centre two days before Christmas and driven to his private residence, Nkululekweni in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. He spent four years in prison.
He was convicted of assault with grievous bodily harm, kidnapping, arson and defeating the ends of justice. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
City Press has learnt that a delegation of senior abaThembu traditional leaders led by Azenathi tried to visit the king at Nkululekweni on the day of his release, but were turned away at the gate.
The king was said to be resting at his private residence with his wife, children, other family members and close friends.
In his Day of Reconciliation message in Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal on December 16, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that certain prisoners would get remission of sentences.
Dalindyebo was one of them. He received a remission of sentence of 12 months.
The king, who chose his eldest son Azenathi to act as king prior to his incarceration, changed his mind at the eleventh hour and instructed that his wife should act as the abaThembu monarch while he was gone.
But some within the royal family and the abaThembu nation believed custom dictated that his son and not his wife should take the role while he was gone. Government endorsed the decision and officially recognised Azenathi as acting king.
King Dalindyebo locked the gates to the Bumbane Great Place before he handed himself over to prison officials in December 2015 to begin his sentence. He instructed that no one open it while he was gone, a decision that Azenathi challenged in court.
He obtained an order that granted him access, going against his father’s wishes.
Azenathi, however, maintained he would vacate the position of acting king when his father was released, and has held several meetings with Ramaphosa during which he is believed to have campaigned for his father’s release.
This week, a senior abaThembu traditional leader and chairperson of the amaDlomo royal family, Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara, confirmed to City Press that he had accompanied the acting king to visit Dalindyebo.
“I was part of the delegation that went to visit the king in Nkululekweni. We were informed that the king was still tired. We decided to leave him and allow him to rest. We are still waiting for his phone call,” Mtirara said.
“We thought we would see him and discuss important matters, but he was tired and promised to phone us when he was ready.”
Azenathi has since called a meeting of the abaThembu nation, which has been scheduled to take place on Thursday, when he is expected to give direction on what will happen now that his father has been released.
Mtirara emphasised that Azenathi was still the acting king of the abaThembu and was well within his rights to call a meeting.
Mtirara said he was not sure whether the king would attend, but hoped he would.
“The meeting on Thursday is a general meeting at which amaDlomo [the core royal family], iinkosi [traditional leaders] and the entire abaThembu nation are invited. The acting king is still in charge and is the only one who can call meetings. There is no one else.
“We hope that the king [Dalindyebo] attends, but even if he is not there, I don’t see a problem because the meeting will go ahead as planned. The acting king will officially inform the nation of the king’s release and what is going to happen,” said Mtirara.
Nkosi Thanduxolo Mtirara, the chairperson of the Ngangelizwe royal family, which consists of members of the family who did not want Azenathi to act as king and wanted Dalindyebo’s younger brother, Prince Mthandeni Mankunku, to act instead, said all they wanted as a nation was peace and stability.
“We hope that there will be peace and harmony within the abaThembu nation at some point. At the end, we are the ones responsible for this instability as a nation, including the king himself. Now that the king has been released, we hope he will form part of efforts to bring stability to the nation because he was the main cause of this instability,” said Thanduxolo.
The king has not yet made a public appearance.
“We have not been able to see him because we are told he is resting. So we are waiting for him to take his deserved break and for him to catch his breath. We also don’t want to disturb him while he is resting,” he said.
“We are waiting for him to give us direction on when he will be ready. He is the head of the nation and even when he was in jail, he was still a king. When he calls us, we will definitely go and hear what he has to say.”
Thanduxolo said that the Ngangelizwe royal family was not aware of the meeting next week called by Azenathi – a clear indication that there were still huge divisions within the core royal family.
On reports that the acting king had been turned away at the gate in Nkululekweni when he had tried to visit his father, Thanduxolo said: “We have heard that he [Azenathi] was turned away. In fact, he was not alone – he was accompanied by about five chiefs. But we do not want to get into those things. Now we are waiting for the king to rest and then afterwards give us direction as abaThembu.”
Thanduxolo said Dalindyebo, as head of abaThembu, was the one who was now supposed to call meetings, not Azenathi.
“As I said before I don’t know about the meeting that was called by Azenathi. I don’t know in what capacity he is calling that meeting.
“Maybe he is calling a meeting with his friends because ever since he became acting king we have not been to his meetings because we do not recognise him. We don’t even know whether this is a meeting of amaDlomo or abaThembu or who,” he said.
Dalindyebo’s spokesperson, Prince Mthunzi Ngonyama, said it was not true that the king did not want to see his son but first wanted to relax and “cool off his mind”.
“After he has done that he will be able to meet his son as father and son and not from an official position as acting king. The king wants his son to come by himself at a time which he will state,” he said.
Ngonyama confirmed that Dalindyebo did not back Azenathi as acting king.
“I don’t know why people are in denial because they know that the king was not in favour of what they were doing. And a day after he arrives they want to set up a meeting. But what I am saying is that the king wants to stabilise [the nation] and meet his son as a son not an acting king and at a time when he wants to meet,” Ngonyama said.
Meanwhile, Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders’ chairperson, said that, although they were happy and relieved that king Zwelibanzi [Dalindyebo’s praise name] was finally out of prison, they were still waiting for Ramaphosa to pronounce on the application that the king be given a presidential pardon.
By law, someone who has been convicted for more than 12 months without an option of a fine cannot hold public office, which means Dalindyebo, who was sentenced to 12 years of direct imprisonment, cannot be officially recognised as king.
However, if he gets a presidential pardon, he will have a clean slate that will pave the way for him to return to his throne.
“The president could pronounce anytime, hence it has always been our plea that the royal family does not do anything militant that would go against the consideration of his application for a presidential pardon. The king must be given a chance to unite the family because, as a direct result of the incarceration of his majesty, there has been division in the family,” said Nonkonyana.