Queen fights for her kingdom
Two years after the Nhlapo commission stripped six monarchs of their thrones, the amaRharhabe continues to wage a full-on court battle for the restoration of its kingship.
And even as the Eastern Cape department of local government and traditional affairs is considering the status and future of the amaRharhabe kingdom, its queen, Noloyiso Sandile has turned to the Pretoria High Court to have the matter dealt with conclusively.
In May, the Eastern Cape government said it was discussing the demotion of the kingdom to a "principal traditional leadership".
But Queen Noloyiso said the matter has dragged on for too long and, in the interests of the amaRharhabe people and those in line to succeed to leadership positions, should now be finalised.
Noloyiso has taken up the legal battle since her husband, amaRharhabe king Maxhobaya-khawuleza Sandile, died last year. She has been acting as regent for her son, who is at university.
Noloyiso is asking the court to order President Jacob Zuma, the Nhlapo commission, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Richard Baloyi, the national House of Traditional Affairs, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet and King Mpendulo Sigcawu to review and set aside the commission findings that stripped them of their kingship in 2010.
Citing extensive literature, research and history, the queen insists that the commission's findings were flawed and unreasonable in terms of customary law.
So tenacious is the queen about pursuing her case that she has employed several experts, including a Canadian historian, to strengthen her argument.
She is also supported by the amaMbombo royal family and the amaRharhabe royal council's Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe.
Professor Timothy Stapelton, of the department of history at Trent University, Ontario, agrees with the queen.
".The amaRharhabe kingship existed and was recognised independently of the amaGcaleka king," he said.
Stapelton said that the commission had failed to use primary source documentary material from the relevant period (late 1700s to early and mid-1800s), which are available in the Cape Town library archives and in Grahamstown.
In addition, "very little of the large amount of available historical literature on Eastern Cape seems to have been consulted".
Stapelton quotes several other professional historians whose research found that the Xhosas became divided between the Gcaleka of the Transkei and the Rharhabe of the Ciskei.
Former president Thabo Mbeki set up the commission to investigate the legitimacy of kingships and chieftaincies.
Apartheid governments installed other kings to lead bantustans.
Gcaleka and Rharhabe were both sons of the Xhosa king Phalo by different mothers and, by tradition and custom, were ranked according to the status of their mother.
The Nhlapo commission determined that the amaRharhabe, abaThembu baseRhoda (Western Thembuland), and amaMpondo aseNyandeni (Western Pondoland) were not legitimate kingships.
The queen filed her papers on Friday. The Presidency has yet to respond.