Who is the chief of Mvezo?

By Henriette Geldenhuys Time of article published Jul 2, 2013

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Cape Town - Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, has hit back at accusations he is no longer recognised as the traditional chief of Mvezo, where Mandela was born on July 18, 1918.

He told the Cape Argus on Monday such claims were “unfortunate” and could “not be taken seriously”.

This comes as the controversy surrounding Mandla, one of Mandela’s 21 grandchildren, deepened with claims his brother, Ndaba, is the rightful chief of Mvezo. Over the weekend, 16 of Mandla Mandela’s relatives went to court after he allegedly took the remains of three of Mandela’s children from Qunu to Mveza without the relatives’ permission.

Now another conflict is raging over whether he is the legitimate Mvezo chief. The king of the Thembus, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, who is Mandela’s nephew, told the Cape Argus on Thursday that Mandla’s younger brother, Ndaba, was the rightful chief of Mvezo.

Dalindyebo also alleged Mandla was trying to “dethrone me” and “take over” as the Thembu king.

“He is not the rightful chief of Mvezo. Ndaba is the rightful heir.

“Mandla is causing a lot of problems. I never wanted Mandla to be the chief of Mvezo. Nelson Mandela offered it to Mandla. Mandla hijacked the situation. He is using the image of the old man to protect his own interests,” the king said.

Speaking to at his palace at Bumbane Great Place, Dalindyebo said: “He (Mandla) wants to take my place. He is someone who wants to take control in his own Mandela family. Then in the clan. Then in the kingdom. And then he will want to rise higher.”

But in a statement to the Cape Argus, Mandla Mandela dismissed the king’s remarks. “These claims by the king are unfortunate.

When he made them for the first time a while ago I laughed them off. I am not sure why the king keeps repeating the claims because they will never suddenly become truthful.”

Mandla said Dalindyebo had been “throwing insults at many individuals”. “It is becoming very difficult to take many of the things he says seriously.”

The statement, issued by his spokesman Freddy Pilusa, denied that Mandla had ambitions to be king. “The royal house of Mandela has never been confused about its role within the Thembu kingdom and we hold no ambition to become anything else.”

In another statement released on Sunday morning, Mandla Mandela also defended his chieftanship of Mvezo and said he had made a solemn promise to Nelson Mandela that he would honour the chieftanship.

“When I was installed as the chief of Mvezo in 2007, a full 70 years after the Mandela chieftancy was taken away from us, my grandfather warned me that the task of being a custodian of our customs and culture would not be easy,” he said.

“I promised him then to be a guardian of these cultures and to work hard to facilitate development for the people of Mvezo, one of the poorest communities in the Eastern Cape.”

His statement said that nothing would deter him from “fulfilling this solemn promise”.

Meanwhile, a member of the royal family of Qunu, Nonyameko Balizulu, told the Cape Argus on Monday that they recognised Mandla Mandela as the chief of Mvezo.

“Nelson Mandela appointed him as the chief and that’s why we recognise him as the chief. If for some reason he should no longer be the chief, then we should all be told about that and then we will follow a new chief.

“At the moment, Mandla is the chief of Mvezo.”


* Nelson Mandela was born in Mvezo and moved to Qunu with his mother after his father died, when when he was two years old.

When he was nine Mandela’s mother arranged for him to live in Mqhekezweni, which is close to both Qunu and Mvezo.

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Cape Argus

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