A handsome prince, his beautiful bride and a sunny coronation are not often accompanied by a bitter court battle for the throne and the expectation that the prince will help free his father from jail.
These are strange dynastic days indeed for people in the abaThembu kingdom in the Eastern Cape.
Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo was installed as acting king of the abaThembu nation on Friday and the criminology graduate is now expected to lead efforts to have his father, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, released from prison.
His installation, which took place on Friday, was preceded by high drama and tragedy.
Two court applications were mounted against the 24-year-old newlywed on Tuesday at the Grahamstown and Mthatha high courts.
In Grahamstown, his uncle, Prince Mthandeni Dalindyebo – the younger brother of the imprisoned king – tried to interdict his installation because another branch of the royal family had chosen him to act as king.
In Mthatha, Azenathi fought another legal battle – this one against his stepmother, Queen Nokwanda, over the opening of the Bumbane Great Place, which the king had instructed be locked before he was sent to jail.
Azenathi has been granted interim access to the great place until next year, when the case will go back to court.
Dressed in a navy blue suit and a black hat, Azenathi told City Press outside the Mthatha High Court this week that he was not bothered by the legal drama.
“God is helping us. He has already helped us, despite the devil’s work and hiccups here and there. We know that before there is light, there is darkness. We are going to win. We will conquer everything. I am not scared.”
His confidence was not misplaced. His uncle withdrew his court application on Thursday. But tragedy soon followed and almost scuppered Azenathi’s installation as acting king.
The news broke early on Friday morning that one of Azenathi’s fiercest opponents, his great-uncle Nkosi Daludumo Mtirara, was found dead at his home in Pretoria.
Mtirara’s brother, an emotional Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara, who is one of the new king’s closest allies, told City Press: “I heard about the passing of my brother this morning.
It has really shocked me. I am very sad. We come from the same womb, and we come from the same father.
“All that I have heard is that he shot himself.”
Despite this, Azenathi’s coronation proceeded as planned.
The colourful event welcomed abaThembu members from as far away as KwaZulu-Natal.
Before proceedings began in a large white marquee, decorated in black and gold, on the lawns of Bumbane Great Place, the crowd paid tribute to Daludumo and recited prayers.
Programme director Nkosi Zwelodumo Mtirara said they were not celebrating Daludumo’s death, even though there had been disagreement over the abaThembu leadership.
But that was the end of the sadness, and the celebrations started with women dancing and ululating, and men taking their hats off to the crown prince, giving the royal salute and calling him by his praise name, Ah! Zanelizwe.
Azenathi’s mother, Queen Buyiswa Nocollege Majiki – a Mthatha High Court judge and King Dalindyebo’s first wife – could not contain her excitement as her son was recognised by impressive crowds of abaThembu, who had arrived in buses, taxis, cars, on horseback and on foot.
Princess Komkom Dalindyebo, King Dalindyebo’s older sister, was particularly thrilled: “Who would have thought this day would come! Oh, God! Thank you, Lord. The pride of abaThembu and dignity has been restored.”
Between Princess Komkom and Queen Buyiswa sat Ongezwa Zwedala, Prince Azenathi’s 19-year-old bride of a week – they married on November 18.
She joined in the ululations, albeit in a subtle way. After the formalities, a large feast ensued with meat from 15 cows slaughtered for the occasion.
It was served together with traditional samp, beans and vegetables, and washed down with umqombothi.
Despite the happy occasion, divisions in the dynasty were evident as royals opposed to Azenathi’s installation did not attend.
They included his stepmother, Queen Nokwanda, aunt Ndileka Dalindyebo-Dlamini, and uncles Patrick and Mthandeni Dalindyebo.
Also conspicuous by his absence was Mvezo chief Mandla Mandela.
Azenathi’s uncle, Prince Siganeko Dalindyebo, said his nephew would now be at the forefront of efforts to have his father released from jail and would have to work to unite the nation.
“From today onwards, Zanelizwe is officially leading the core royal family. He is leading the Thembus as a nation and amaDlomo as a clan,” he announced.
“He is the sole leader, acting on behalf of his father. He will be the ... face of the campaign to free his father from jail, as this campaign had no leader. We have hope that, as young blood, he is going to lead us to the promised land and bring unity.”