Former South African president Nelson Mandela, pictured, beamed yesterday as he watched his grandson reclaim a traditional leadership post Mandela had renounced decades ago to become a lawyer and dedicate his life to fighting apartheid.
Mandla Mandela, 32, was draped in a lion skin, the symbol of royalty, and officially installed as head of the Mvezo Traditional Council by the king of the AbaThembu, Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, one of six kings of the Xhosa people.
"This is about the returning of our dignity and the restoring of our history," said Dalindyebo, amid drumming and ululating from hundreds of well-wishers, including tribal royalty from across the country.
It was the first time in nearly 70 years that a member of Mandela's family from the Madiba clan had taken up the mantle of traditional leadership.
Mandla Mandela, who graduated from Rhodes University's political science programme last week, now has the power to resolve disputes and try certain criminal and civil cases.
"He is the link between the king, the ancestors and his people," said Patekile Holomisa, head of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa.
Mandla Mandela told reporters his 88-year-old grandfather had expressed concern about disappointing his king when he renounced his claim to the position, but today was pleased "to see his father's chieftaincy restored in his lifetime."
Nelson Mandela's father, Henry, had been deposed in the early 1900s after he defied a summons from a local magistrate.
In a statement before the ceremony, Mandla Mandela said he looked forward to his office with "respect, pride and passion".
Mandla Mandela's father, Makgatho, Nelson Mandela's last surviving son, died in 2005 of Aids-related complications.
His mother, Rayne Mandela- Perry, said her late husband would have been proud to see his son carry on the family legacy.
The ceremony, known as ubeko, or anointment, took place amid gale force winds and swirling dust clouds at the Mvezo Great Place, seat of the Mandela house.
Set in the Transkei, the picturesque Xhosa homeland with its rolling hills and turquoise huts, the ceremony was a colourful affair with at least 10 oxen slaughtered for the guests' feast.
"I will live among my people and look forward to assisting with the numerous challenges we face including social issue such as poverty and health," Mandla Mandela said.
"Monarchy and tribal leadership have substantial roles in the continued democratisation of the country and I am thankful to follow in my grandfather's footsteps," he said. - Sapa-AP