Funeral fit for a king

13 December 2013 - 02:11 By ABONGILE MGAQELWA and LULAMILE FENI

Cabinet ministers and Mandela family members convened an urgent meeting with AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo yesterday to prevent potentially embarrassing scenes at the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Sunday.

Public Administration Minister and Mandela relative Lindiwe Sisulu, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, Mandela's eldest daughter, Makaziwe, and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa were locked in a meeting with the king at his Bumbane Royal Palace in Mthatha yesterday trying to convince him to attend the funeral in Qunu.

The king has apparently refused to attend if President Jacob Zuma is there.

But a royal aide said what Dalindyebo was unhappy about was plans by Mandela's grandson Mandla to host traditional leaders in Mvezo today when he is neither a king nor heir of the family's clan.

"The king does not understand how Mandla can invite kings and chiefs to Mvezo as if that place is the royal palace. It is the duty of the king to handle such things. He is not even the heir of amaDlomo. The king is supposed to handle all issues pertaining to the royal preparations for the funeral," said the aide.

The king apparently told the family he refused to take instructions about the burial from Mandla.

On Wednesday, family spokesman General Themba Matanzima said Dalindyebo - a member of the Madiba clan and nephew of the world icon - was expected to receive Mandela's body at the Mthatha airport or in Qunu.

In terms of custom, Dalindyebo should lead the ritual of accepting the body, speaking to Mandela's spirit and telling it that it has arrived home.

"Though Zwelibanzi [Dalindyebo's praise name] is a close family member, he is also the king and has a big role to play in this funeral in terms of the cultural process of the Madiba clan and the AbaThembu," said Matanzima. "He is expected to be giving guidance as far as custom is concerned."

The king, according to his spokesman, Mfundo Mtirara, is supposed to lead a salutation at the grave site. "He will say Madiba's praise name three times, as prescribed by our tradition."

Yesterday's meeting was the second in as many days. Dalindyebo's refusal to share a stage with Zuma prompted a meeting with close family members on Wednesday evening but there was no outcome, hence the meeting yesterday.

Dalindyebo reportedly asked why Zuma, rather than he, was chief mourner.

"President Zuma has been placed as the chief mourner and he is going to welcome people at the funeral instead of the king. [Dalindyebo] is not happy with that," said a source close to the king. "He said he would not go to the funeral. The only thing he will do is to welcome the body on Saturday, take it home then go back to Bumbane."

Dalindyebo detests Zuma and uses public occasions to slander him. He has gone so far as to join ANC rival the DA.

Earlier this week, the Daily Dispatch newspaper reported that the king would go to the funeral only if his ancestors told him to do so.

This would not be the first time Dalindyebo has boycotted a funeral. He missed those of his mother, brother and one of his wives.

Yesterday at Bumbane, The Times was reliably informed that the land reform minister had come to tell the king that the gravel road there would be tarred. The move backfired because Dalindyebo refused to meet Nkwinti.

"The king said he does not understand how Nkwinti can come to tell him about service delivery when he is mourning the passing of Madiba," said a source.

Mtirara said Dalindyebo would hold a press conference tomorrow to say whether he would attend the funeral.