Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu has backed the formation of a new political party by traditional leaders, accusing the ANC of sidelining them.
Sigcawu said the idea “was long overdue” and would be a “breakthrough move” that would “shake” the political scene in the country”.
His view flies in the face of that of former African Union Commission chairwoman Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who visited Sigcawu’s Nqadu great place near Willowvale on Tuesday.
Dlamini-Zuma, who is believed to be running for the country’s top job, urged traditional leaders not to break the long-held ties between them and the ANC, saying the move would be detrimental to poor rural communities.
But Sigcawu described the formation of the new party as a “very good initiative by the South African royalty”.
“Such a move is not unprecedented as many traditional leaders, including kings, have not only been active political members, but have established their own parties. Why not the present generation of traditional leaders?”
Sigcawu was addressing hundreds of people including ANC Women’s League members dressed in their green and black uniforms during Dlamini-Zuma’s visit.
He had earlier told her that the country was “not yet ready to be led by a woman president”.
Sigcawu accused the ANC of disregarding traditional leaders and placing them on the sidelines.
He cited traditional leaders like KD Matanzima, Tutor Ndamase, Lucas Mangope and Lennox Sebe, who had established their own political parties.
“We even have the likes of King Sabata Dalindyebo. These were traditional leaders and most of the members of their parties – who even went up to be ministers – were traditional leaders.
“So why can the current generation of traditional leaders not do that,” said Sigcawu while sitting next to Dlamini-Zuma.
He said the move for traditional leaders to establish a political party was gaining momentum.
“In the national general council of Contralesa last year, eight provinces, except KwaZulu-Natal, all agreed unanimously on the establishment of a traditional leaders political party which will contest both national and local elections.”
Sigcawu said the need was caused by the negative attitude and arrogance of ANC leaders towards traditional leadership.
“Nkosi Xolile Ndevu as secretary-general of Contralesa has for many years been trying to have the Contralesa and ANC national leadership meet but they have been ignored, so why must we continue supporting an organisation that does not respect us?”
The formation of the party has caused a rift within Contralesa.
National leaders including president Setlamarogo Thobejane, secretary-general Chief Xolile Ndevu, treasurer-general Prince Gambani Mabena and Contralesa Women’s League provincial chairwoman Nkosikazi Nolubabalo Matikinca are actively involved in setting up a party called the African Restoration Party.
Thobejane is said to be the interim president, Matikinca national chairwoman, Mabena treasurer and Ndevu national spokesman.
This comes as Contralesa is still trying to engage the ANC on the idea of forming a party and investigating the viability of such a move. It was resolved at Contralesa’s special general council meeting last month that the organisation would spend the next six months researching the advantages and disadvantages of forming a new political party.
It was agreed, however, that Contralesa would remain above party politics and the organisation has distanced itself from the establishment of the African Restoration Party.
Eastern Cape Contralesa chairman Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana said it was agreed at the January special general conference that Contralesa leaders must step down from their leadership roles in the new party and disassociate themselves from it.
But Ndevu said they would not step down as they had joined the party as individuals and not as Contralesa members.
He said many traditional leaders were politically active.
Dlamini-Zuma said if Contralesa was to break its long-held ties with the ANC, opposition parties would be “happy”.
“I understand that traditional leaders are disappointed and angry with things, but I humbly request that traditional leaders must give the ANC chances and together they sort out things,” she said.
“This move will be detrimental to the poor people of South Africa.
“It will at the same time make opposition parties happy and make things worse for the people we serve.” — firstname.lastname@example.org