Cape Town - The royal family of the AbaThembu kingdom has thrown its weight behind Mandla Mandela as the new head of the Mandela family, echoing the view expressed by Mandla’s spokesman, Freddie Pilusa, who says Mandla is now at the helm after the death of his grandfather, Nelson Mandela.
This comes after Nelson Mandela’s former and second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, released a statement on Wednesday, 13 days after Mandela’s death, declaring his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, the head of the Mandela family.
“In accordance with customary law and tradition, the eldest daughter, being Ms Makaziwe Mandela, will head the family,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
Makaziwe is Madiba’s only surviving child from his first marriage to Evelyn Mase, and is also his eldest child.
Mandla is the eldest surviving male in the family. He is the son of Madiba and Mase’s son, Makgatho, who died in 2005.
Makaziwe and Mandla have been involved in various disputes in recent months, including a court battle over where the remains of three of Madiba’s children should be buried.
Asked to comment on the issue on Saturday, Pilusa was adamant that Mandla is the chief of the Mvezo.
“And what that means is he’s the head of the Mandela house, the traditional Mandela house,” he added.
Pilusa referred to an incident during which Madiba’s father was stripped of his chieftainship soon after the former president’s birth in Mvezo in 1918, when he defied a magistrate’s order to appear in court.
Pilusa said that, when the chieftainship of Mvezo was restored in 2007, Mandla was “restored as the head of the Mandela house by heritage”.
On Friday, the royal family of the AbaThembu kingdom released a statement supporting Mandla as the head of the Mandela family.
The royal family’s spokesman, Daludumo Mtirara, said Madiba made it clear that he endorsed Mandla when he handed over the “traditional spear” of the Mandela house to him in 2007.
Mtirara said Madiba’s action implied that Mandla would preside over “all the Mandela house’s cultural, customary and traditional ceremonies and ritual events”.
His statement referred to Makaziwe as an “ordinary member” of the Mandela family.
Of the statement by Madikizela-Mandela, Mtirara accused her of “ignorance”, and said the royal family felt “embarrassed” by her for “mischievously discussing matters affecting the custom of the AbaThembu kingdom and its nation”.
However, although Mtirara’s statement appears to represent the entire AbaThembu royal family, he actually represents only a faction of the family.
Mtirara’s group opposes the rule of the AbaThembu king, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, and voted in September last year to remove him as king.
Dalindyebo said earlier in the year that he did not recognise Mandla as chief of Mvezo. Instead, he said that Mandla’s brother, Ndaba, was the rightful heir to the chieftanship of Mvezo.
The king has said that Mandla is part of the faction trying to dethrone him.