Cape Town - Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, has said his critics should be more tolerant of his religious choices after he was booed and called a “traitor” when he arrived at Parliament for the State of the Nation Address with his third wife, Nodiyala Mbali Makhathini.
Insults were believed to have been directed at him after his marriage to his fourth wife, Rabia Clarke, last weekend and conversion to her religion, Islam. Some have seen this as a contravention of his Xhosa heritage.
Mandela, an MP, is also the traditional chief of Mvezo, where his grandfather was born.
He responded by retweeting an article about the booing as well as a tweet by political analyst @LeonHartwell.
Hartwell’s tweet read: “No one has to like @mandlamandela, but freedom of religion is a constitutional right #Madiba fought for #tolerance.”
Some have wondered why Mandela chose to attend the address with Makhathini, rather than Clarke, whom he had just married.
Mandela, who could not be reached for comment on Saturday, had posted pictures of himself embracing and holding hands with Clarke at their wedding last week, on his Twitter account.
He also posted pictures of himself hand-in-hand with Makhathini at the address.
He retweeted comments complimenting him and Makhathini on their matching orange and black outfits and how he was viewed as a Xhosa style icon.
Daludumo Mtirara, of the AbaThembu Royal Council, said on Saturday Mandela’s marriage and the controversy surrounding it were “internal affairs of the Mandela royal house”.
“We will have to wait for the Mandela royal house to make an announcement before we make a comment.”
Phathekile Holomisa, traditional leader of the Hegebe clan in Thembuland, said he did not see anything wrong with Mandela and Clarke’s marriage. “We do have our own African religion, which manifests in the way of the ancestors, who are a link between oneself and God. However, there have been people who have converted to other religions.
“It is important that a person’s new belief does not prohibit a traditional leader to give recognition to the ancestors.”
When asked about the criticism made against Mandela, he said: “The criticism is not justified.”
Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks, president of the Muslim Judicial Council, said Mandela’s new faith would not prohibit him from maintaining his tribal or cultural ties. “If he has embraced Islam it does not mean he will disconnect with his tribe. It does not mean he cannot serve as a chief. Muslims do not have a uniform culture but a uniform belief.
“We appeal to Mandla’s tribal elders and community that Islam is a tolerant religion.”
Mandela’s interaction with the Muslim community predates his marriage to Clarke.
Hendricks said Mandela had participated in pro-Palestine marches in the city over the years. In 2014, in one of the city’s biggest marches against Israeli attacks on Gaza, Mandela was one of the main speakers. “It’s an indication that he’s a grandchild who is committed to the legacy of his grandfather.”
Mandela’s love life has been embroiled in drama. He married his first wife, Tando Mabuna, in 2004, his second wife, Anais Grimaud, in 2010 and Makhathini in 2011. His divorce from Mabuna is in process while Grimaud returned to her home in Reunion in 2012 with her son after Mandela claimed he was not the child’s biological father.
Weekend Argus and Sunday Tribune