Johannesburg - The royal family of the kingdom of the abaThembu ousted Zwelibanzi, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, as king over nine months ago.
This means the king, who has a bid under way to remove Mandla Mandela from the chieftainship of Mvezo, is no longer recognised as their leader.
But the government has not yet formally approved the decision and is still giving him “certain benefits”, says spokesman of the royal house of the abaThembu, Nkosi Daludumo Mtirara.
The move by the royal family to distance themselves from Zwelibanzi is seen as open support for Mandla, the Mandela family and President Jacob Zuma, all of whom he has verbally attacked in the past week.
On Saturday, Zwelibanzi stated publicly that he would introduce a process for the removal of Mandla from the chieftainship of Mvezo.
But Mtirara said: “The royal family for the kingdom of abaThembu regards Zwelibanzi’s announcements for the removal of Mandla as a joke, an act of creating confusion, disrespecting the cultural, customary and traditional practices and processes.
“Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo is behind an operation driven to ensuring divisions within the Mandela royal house.
“He has, in fact, no rights any more. We have had a number of meetings with the government and are waiting for our resolution to be formally accepted. We do not know how long it will take, but we no longer recognise him.”
Through his spokesman Freddy Pilusa, Mandla said Zwelibanzi was renowned for insulting South African presidents. Only Kgalema Motlanthe “escaped his insults” because his tenure as president was short, but Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki had “suffered under his tongue”.
This was Mandla’s response to Zwelibanzi’s scathing attack on Zuma this weekend in which he called him a “Zulu boy”, a “parasite” and a “tribalist”.
Pilusa said Zwelibanzi “smokes a lot of dagga”.
“The announcement he made that he has relieved Nkosi Mandela of his traditional duties is laughable. It takes a long customary process to appoint a chief and it takes a long customary process to remove a chief. You don’t just wake up and call a meeting of followers and make such a decision.
“Removing a king, just like removing a chief, is a process, but King Dalindyebo is a criminal and his family could use that as grounds to remove him,” Pilusa said.
In May, Zwelibanzi dismissed his palace traditional affairs director-general, Professor Muzamani Charles Nwaila, as some members of his royal committee pushed ahead plans to oust the monarch. This was after his detractors, who apparently included Mandla, wrote a letter to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi last year asking for assistance in removing Zwelibanzi.
Then last month, Zwelibanzi and Mandla butted heads over a prayer meeting for Nelson Mandela that Zwelibanzi arranged without consulting the Mandela family.
Mtirara said in September that he, on behalf of the family, submitted a position paper called “Request for the intervention of the royal family to defend the integrity of the kingdom of the abaThembu.”
“The royal family found Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo unfit to lead the cultural, customary and traditional ceremonies for the Great House including other royal houses,” said Daludumo Mtirara.
Before the royal family passed the resolution in September, sections of the Traditional Leadership and Government Framework Act of 2003 were considered carefully.
The family afforded Zwelibanzi “sufficient time” before passing this resolution, to convince his elders that he was, indeed, still fit to preside.
Zwelibanzi has four brothers, princes Thanduxolo, Daludumo, Thandisizwe and Jongisizwe, who have allegedly turned against their brother.