ANC-groomed king returns to the Transkei

The African National Congress-groomed king of the Transkei, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, returns tomorrow to the land he has not seen since he was a child - but his people fear he will not be allowed beyond Jan Smuts Airport. Buyelekhaya, now 26, returns from Zambia tomorrow after 14 years in which he has grown up in the household of President Kenneth Kaunda, to rebury the recently exhumed body of his father, Sabata Dalindyebo, on Sunday. 

A major demonstration of support for the ANC is expected to mark the reinterment of Sabata Dalindyebo at Bumbane (“The Great Place”, traditional home of Transkei’s royal house) on Sunday. Nelson Mandela is expected to send a message from Victor Verster Prison.
Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s return and the reburial of his father’s body is the latest drama in a long and bloody power struggle for control of the hearts of people in South Africa’s first independent “homeland”. 

King Sabata Dalindyebo, traditional leader of Thembuland, which covers almost all of the Transkei, joined the ANC after being forced into exile in 1975. His cousin Kaiser Matanzima, then president of the “homeland”, accused Sabata of attempting to assassinate him. Matanzima took the opportunity to install his choice as Thembu king, Bambilanga Mtirara. He was succeeded by his son, Zondwa Mtirara, who was deposed after a meeting of thousands of Thembu at Bumbane in July. Buyelekhaya was named king in absentia.

The funeral on Sunday is intended to correct the situation created when Matanzima abducted the king’s body and forcibly buried it outside of Bumbane. Guests will include King Mswati II, Ngwenyama of Swaziland, representatives of the Botswana royal family, Mandela’s son, Makgatho Mandela, and the territory’s military ruler, General Bantu Holomisa. The gathering will be addressed by the chief of Table Mountain in Natal and president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralessa), Mhlabunzima Maphumulo.

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of Inkatha, is conspicuously absent from the invitation list. The return of Dalindyebo is likely to alter the political face of the Transkei. It has been hailed a victory for that part of the Transkei royalty that stood against colonialism and Transkei “independence”.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

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