Mlandeni (Mgilija) Nhleko arriving at the Khangela Royal Palace in May. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)
Mlandeni (Mgilija) Nhleko arriving at the Khangela Royal Palace in May. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

Fallout over Zuma’s Nkandla defence widens, pitting Buthelezi against Zulu regiments ’commander’

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Jul 6, 2021

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The Zulu royal family has found itself even more entangled in the Jacob Zuma issue as Mgilija Nhleko, the “Commander of Zulu regiments”, hit back at Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, insisting that he is the commander of the structure.

He claimed that he was given the position by the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and Buthelezi should have questioned that while the king was still around.

Nhleko is the famed “commander” of the regiments and he shot to fame in mid-March this year when the regiments paid a culturally colourful last respects to the late king during his “planting” in Nongoma.

It was during that time that the position started to gain prominence, so much that Nhleko started receiving invitations to take part in prominent cultural events.

On Saturday, Nhleko showed up at Zuma’s Nkandla home in full traditional gear, even wearing a traditionally sacred headgear normally reserved for special cultural ceremonies and only worn if the Zulu King is taking part.

The Nkandla appearance, in some quarters, set tongues wagging and legitimised claims by Zuma supporters that their defence would be joined by the famed regiments who are known for their fighting strengths.

However, that led to Buthelezi’s frowning, saying Nhleko was not sanctioned to be there and this was his second act of defiance as in the middle of last month he joined an unauthorised royal hunting expedition as part of a royal cleansing ceremony.

When asked about that, Buthelezi claimed that Nhleko had said that according to his understanding, the Zulu nation was without a king, implying that he did not recognise King Misuzulu who is currently on the throne pending coronation.

During a press conference in Ulundi yesterday, where Buthelezi said he was speaking as an “elder”, he first said he sympathised with Zuma and his family, but lashed out at his supporters.

Buthelezi said their defence amounted to challenging the authority of the state if they say Zuma should not serve his 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

Giving some historical background, Buthelezi said Zuma was not the first senior leader to be sent to jail, yet when others in history had been jailed, there had been no rebellions. Among the many incidents of jailing was that of King Cetshwayo in 1879.

“When King Cetshwayo was arrested and sent into exile, neither the king’s regiments nor his people threatened a physical uprising, for it would have been hopeless and end in utter destruction.”

Regarding Nhleko, Buthelezi said they had no idea who had installed him and the Zulu king had since summoned him to explain himself.

“We don’t know when he was installed as the commander, we don’t know… he can’t on his own lead them (regiments). It was he and his friends who went there, that small crowd was not a (Zulu) regiment. It was him and his friends calling themselves a regiment of the king… they were not a regiment of the king.

“As I have said, today the king called me to a meeting but I had to come here (press conference). The king wants him (Mgilija) to explain his trip (to Nkandla). That will happen this week,” Buthelezi said.

Nhleko said it puzzled him why the position was now being contested and denied claims made by Buthelezi that he had told those who questioned his participation in the recent royal hunt that the Zulu nation is currently without a king.

“If he says I am not the commander of the regiments, who is holding the position then? If Buthelezi wants the position he must take it… let him take it now. This is shocking… why were they quiet all along when the King (Zwelithini) was still around,” Nhleko said in response to Buthelezi’s claims.

When Zuma was asked by the media on Sunday about the presence of the regiments at his home, he said that question was irrelevant as he was Zulu himself, a member of the regiments, so they came to see “a colleague”.

Political Bureau

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