Battle for abaThembu throne hots up as Buyelekhaya demands his son take a DNA test
In a new twist to the ongoing saga involving the abaThembu nation in the Eastern Cape, a faction of the royal family wants all six of King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s children to undergo paternity tests.
Earlier this week, Buyelekhaya caused a stir when he disowned his son, acting king Azenathi Dalindyebo, and suggested that a DNA test be conducted to prove that Azenathi was really his child.
This marks an all-time low in their relationship and the culmination of tensions between them which had built up following the senior monarch’s release from jail in December.
Since then, the two have been locked in a tussle for the throne.
Azenathi had been appointed as acting king from the time Buyelekhaya was sentenced to a 12-year prison term for arson, kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and defeating the ends of justice.
He was incarcerated in December 2015. Azenathi was installed as acting king by the abaThembu in November 2016. This was officially recognised by government in February 2017.
Although Buyelekhaya had initially wanted Azenathi to act as regent when he went to jail, he changed his mind prior to his incarceration and endorsed one of his wives, Queen Nokwanda, to take over.
“NOW THAT HE DOES NOT KNOW WHEN HE HAS IMPREGNATED A WOMAN, TO PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN IN FUTURE AND [HAVING] OUR KINGDOM EMBARRASSED LIKE THIS, WE WANT THE KING TO SUBJECT ALL SIX OF HIS CHILDREN TO A DNA TEST”_ Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara
However, the amaDlomo (the core royal family) had already accepted Azenathi and argued that, as the king’s eldest son, he was the rightful person to take over.
Now, following Buyelekhaya’s release from prison in December, after a remission of sentence was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the two remain locked in a tug of war over who the legitimate king is.
This week, presumably frustrated at seeing his son continuing to enjoy all the benefits that come with being acting king, Buyelekhaya threw a spanner in the works by claiming that Azenathi was not his biological child.
He demanded that the acting king undergo DNA testing and told him to vacate the royal residence at Bumbane Great Place, near Mthatha.
This is not the first time the king has demanded his son leave the royal palace.
In March, City Press reported that Buyelekhaya stormed Bumbane Great Place in the middle of the night and allegedly chased away the acting king and his wife.
He was arrested the following day and appeared in the Mthatha Magistrates’ Court, where he was released on a warning.
He is due to appear in court again on June 1.
On Friday, responding on Azenathi’s behalf, the amaDlomo royal family said he would agree to go for a DNA test on condition that all six of the children fathered by Buyelekhaya and his three wives also did so.
The family said this was to prevent a future situation in which the king could disown one of his children.
“WE ARE NOT SHAKING OR WAVERING ON THE FACT THAT HE IS OUR SON”_ Prince Siganeko Dalindyebo, Buyelekhaya’s younger brother and Azenathi’s uncle
Addressing a media briefing at Bumbane Great Place, Nkosi Thandisizwe Mtirara said of Buyelekhaya: “Now that he does not know when he has impregnated a woman, to prevent this from happening again in future and [having] our kingdom embarrassed like this, we want the king to subject all six of his children to a DNA test.
“As the royal family, we are going to monitor that and make sure it is carried through.”
Prince Siganeko Dalindyebo, Buyelekhaya’s younger brother and Azenathi’s uncle, who supports the acting king, said it was unfortunate that the Thembu nation was still involved in “a media circus as a result of poverty thinking”, adding that this was undermining the existence of the kingship as an institution. He said it was unnecessary for Azenathi to be disowned by his father.
“But we are not surprised because this is something that Zwelibanzi [Buyelekhaya] has been using throughout his reign as a weapon of fighting.
“Within the family, we have come to know that when there are issues, our legitimacy in the lineage of Dalindyebo will be questioned. It is time that this stopped. Here we are, faced with maintaining the legacy and dignity of King Thembu himself, the founder of the kingdom,” he said.
The prince added that such tendencies sowed divisions within the nation, and this would not be allowed to continue unabated.
“Zanelizwe [Azenathi], we are not shaking or wavering on the fact that he is our son,” he said.
He said Buyelekhaya had not raised any issues with the relevant structures within the abaThembu nation before hanging his “dirty linen” in public.
Siganeko praised Azenathi for having brought stability to the amaThembu in the three years, and counting, that he had been at the helm, adding that the abaThembu must continue to develop.
“IF AZENATHI IS STILL GETTING SOME BENEFITS FROM GOVERNMENT, THAT WOULD BE CORRUPTION – BECAUSE HIS CONTRACT AS ACTING KING EXPIRED ON MARCH”_ Babalo Papu, Buyelekhaya’s spokesperson
“We also explain that Zanelizwe is intact and is in high spirits, happy and jovial. This whole thing has not bothered him. He is just concerned that his dignity and image are being dragged through the mud.
“This is something that we also do not want. We are not about causing a rift between father and son, but that is what his [Buyelekhaya’s] clique and cabal are doing. Our duty is to unite the house of Dalindyebo,” he said.
He said talks between Buyelekhaya and the amaDlomo royal family had collapsed.
Babalo Papu, Buyelekhaya’s spokesperson and confidante, said the king still held a certificate of recognition for the kingdom of abaThembu, and this had never been revoked.
He said that there was only one king of the Thembu nation and that Azenathi’s term as acting regent had lapsed in March.
Papu said Azenathi had no business occupying the king’s seat or deriving any of the benefits that were due to Buyelekhaya.
“The ruling king currently is king Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo; there is no doubt about that. If Azenathi is still getting some benefits from government, that would be corruption – because his contract as acting king expired on March 8. That means anything that goes to him from government is corruption and needs to be looked into by law enforcement,” said Papu.
He said the king did not have a problem with all of his children undergoing DNA testing, but he wanted Azenathi’s test to be done as a matter of urgency.