Former ANC MP and president of the Contralesa Kgosi Setlamorago Thobejane has been forced to back down on his call for traditional leaders to form their own political party. Picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media

Durban – Former ANC MP and president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) Kgosi Setlamorago Thobejane has been forced to back down on his call for traditional leaders to form their own political party to contest elections against the ANC.

KwaZulu-Natal chairperson of Contralesa Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza told The Star on Sunday that Thobejane had not been mandated to call for the formation of a political party by traditional leaders.

However, it seemed that Thobejane had not heeded the call to retreat as The Sunday Independent reported on Sunday that he had said members of Contralesa would meet in June to discuss how they would go about forming the party.

Thobejane insisted on Sunday that the process would continue. He said the party would contest the 2019 general elections.

Chiliza said traditional leadership was above party politics. “When we enter into party politics it would mean we should confront the ANC in Parliament."

“People should not look at us as politicians, but they should look at us as their traditional leaders."

“At the weekend we held a special meeting where they apologised as they were wrong by rushing into a political party without getting a mandate,” said Chiliza.

He said the news of the political party shocked the leadership of Contralesa in all provinces.

He said that in November last year, provinces held a meeting where they sent Thobejane, Contralesa secretary Inkosi Xolile Ndevu and treasurer Gambani Mabhena to meet President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to discuss dissatisfaction about the way the government was “undermining” traditional leaders.

He said that during the November meeting, it was agreed that if the ANC and Zuma did not address Contralesa’s grievances, they would then hold a consultative forum where various people with expertise in traditional leadership and in law from across the continent would advise traditional leaders on how to force the government to respect and listen to them.

Chiliza said Mantashe had contacted Thobejane, Ndevu and Mabhena last month to arrange a date for the meeting with Zuma and the ANC’s NEC.

“When Gwede requested them to set up a date for the meeting, they (Thobejane, Ndevu and Mabhena) argued over who should go."

“That was wrong, because that was not our mandate. If we need to meet the president we will meet him anywhere he would be available. We will even go to Luthuli House to meet with the ANC,” he said.

Chiliza said that when the three were confronted by provinces at the special meeting last weekend, they apologised.

“Thobejane was in the meeting and he was among those who apologised,” said Chiliza.

Mantashe, who was at the special meeting, told The Star that Contralesa had rejected the traditional leaders’ political party.

But Thobejane insisted that the process of forming a political party would continue.

He could not confirm whether he had apologised for coming up with the idea of a political party.

“We are consulting South Africans about the possibility of establishing a political party. We respect anyone’s view. We are definitely continuing,” he said.

The Mercury