Piet Retief - The government of Mpumalanga province has been accused of dragging its feet in dethroning a traditional leader who was wrongly recognised by former premier David Mabuza in 2012.
Mabuza during his tenure recognised Themba Yende as the leader of the Yende clan near Piet Retief.
However, Mabuza’s decision was challenged in court and in December 2020 the Supreme Court of Appeal had a final say when it ruled that Yende was wrongly recognised.
The court case was brought by Felani Yende together with his royal siblings, Ntombikayise and Sibongile.
Their argument was that Themba was not the right person to be recognised as the traditional leader of the clan.
They argued that Themba was born out of wedlock and he only assumed the Yende surname (he was using Hadebe, his mother’s surname) in 1997.
Tracing their origins to being Zulus, Felani and his sisters argued that only their mother, MaMnisi was married to their father, the late Inkosi Leornard Yende.
As such, only Felani the first-born son of the marriage could take over the throne of the clan located near the South Africa-Eswatini border.
Themba’s recognition, the courts ruled, was flawed because all the other family members were not given an opportunity to make an input.
Ntombikayise who is the spokesperson of the Yende faction that supports Felani claims that the Office of the Premier in Mpumalanga and the provincial department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) had been giving them a run-around instead of implementing the order which dethrones Themba.
She alleged that at some point the provincial government sent them a letter claiming that Themba had been stripped of all the financial support that was allocated to him.
“We later learnt that it was not the case, Themba was still getting all the benefits as the leader of the clan even though the court is clear on that matter. We went to government offices (in Nelspruit) to query that and we were told that the law does not allow them to stop the benefits until the matter has been settled.
“We asked them to refer to the court ruling, they claimed it was not clear but could not state in what way. We have been to all offices of the government in Mpumalanga, even the premier’s office. All we get are long stories that are not clear,” Ntombikayise told IOL on Monday.
Ntombikayise alleged that in October last year, Cogta officials and some traditional leaders from the Gert Sibande district tried to convene a family meeting where the heir could be nominated and have the matter put to rest.
She claimed that they got a shock of their lives when the officials chairing the meeting told them to vote for the heir.
“It is unheard of, a traditional leader is born and the customary law is clear on how he is identified. In our case, Felani is the rightful leader of the clan, hence when they came with the voting issue, we walked out. We later learnt that they said Themba won the elections, which is very bizarre,” she claimed.
Ntombikayise said they had resorted to going back to force the government of Mpumalanga to implement what the court said.
“That matter will be in court on October 28 this year and we hope that it will finally put this issue to rest.”
The spokesperson of the office of the premier in Mpumalanga, George Mthethwa, referred questions about the matter to Cogta.
Cogta spokesperson, Lindiwe Msibi, disputed that the courts found that Felani is the rightful heir and Themba is not.
“The court ruling never identified Felani Yende as the right heir or that Inkosi Themba Yende as a wrongful heir. However, the court ruled that the Inner Royal Family should go back and identify the correct heir of the throne,” Msibi said.
Efforts to locate Themba yielded no positive results. His side of the story will be added as soon as he is located for comment.