Suspend initiation, cancel wedding plans to mourn amaXhosa king, says royal house

Some parents are seething, saying they have spent a lot of money on preparations for their children to go to the bush.
Some parents are seething, saying they have spent a lot of money on preparations for their children to go to the bush.
Image: File

Thousands of young Xhosa boys due to undergo initiation rites during the summer initiation season will have to postpone their plans for a year because of the death of AmaXhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu.

The announcement by the Xhosa royal house also applies to those who plan to wed, because all celebrations have been suspended as part of the one-year mourning period.

But some parents are seething, saying they have spent a lot of money in preparation for their children to go to the bush.

Nomathemba Mqikela, 45, whose son is due to be initiated next Saturday, said: “The kingdom doesn’t have a say in this mgidi (festivities), they didn’t contribute a cent.

“We can’t be expected to suspend the event when we have spent so much money in its planning and invited guests from all over the country.”

Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said in December 2018, 33,608 boys were legally circumcised and a further 2,332 illegally circumcised.

Speaking to the Dispatch on Tuesday, amaXhosa royal house spokesperson and Sigcawu’s uncle Xhanti Sigcawu said the house had already cancelled the upcoming Xhosa carnival, hosted annually by the late king at the Nqadu Great Place.

The mourning period mostly affects people who are under the Xhosa kingdoms of AmaGcaleka and AmaRharhabe.

Traditional affairs expert Loyiso Nqevu said the mourning period directive mostly affected initiates in Gatyana, Centane, Dutywa, Butterworth, Xhora and Ngqamakhwe, areas that fall under Nqadu Great Place, the seat of the late Sigcawu’s kingdom.

Nqevu said people in areas that fell under the rule of AmaRharhabe, at Mngqesha Great Place, were also expected to heed the call.

The areas include King William’s Town, Makhanda, Fort Beaufort, Alice, East London, Port Elizabeth and surroundings areas.

Xhanti Sigcawu said the mourning period for King Sigcawu was 12 months.

There are six kingdoms in the Eastern Cape.

Nqevu said: “The people who are ruled by the kingdoms of AmaMpondo and AbaThembu can be exempted, but it is advisable for them to follow suit because we are talking about the death of a king.”

Due to democracy and modernisation, many people no longer respected their cultures and traditions, he said.

“I know for a fact that many people will not heed the call. People are all about minding their own business. Some don’t even see what the fuss is about  [over] the death of the king.”

Sigcawu said the kingdoms did not want to “spoil the party for anyone”, and that initiates who were already in the mountains should continue, but not organise mgidi.

“But those who are still planning to send their boys to the mountain must cancel the plans until the mourning period is over, which is November 2020.”

Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA provincial secretary Chief Mkhanyiseli Dudumayo said mourning in general had lost its significance.

“People no longer respect tradition. I was there in Nqadu and on my way there, people were going about their daily life, doing all the things they normally do.”

Dudumayo said in the past, sex was also suspended during the mourning period.

“Nowadays widows and widowers have zero tolerance for the mourning period.

“They just move on. At a household level, members of many families don’t care enough to shave off their hair to mourn their loved ones.”

AmaRharhabe spokesperson Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe said his subjects would be given grace to “enjoy” themselves, but warned them not to “overindulge”.

“We must understand that whatever we do, we do it in full realisation that within our midst, a great symbol of our identity and a father figure has passed on.

“It’s only logical for the nation to observe that sense of respect to the departed soul of his majesty the king.”

Burns-Ncamashe said the present generation had forgotten their roots.

The influence of colonialism had deprived them of the opportunity to fully understand and express the essence of the identity of the Xhosa nation, he said.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has established a provincial interministerial committee to lead the provincial government’s preparations for the funeral service of the late king.

The monarch, 51, will be laid to rest at Nqadu Great Place, near Willowvale, on December 2.

Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, said on Tuesday that the committee included the MECs of co-operative governance (Xolile Nqatha), sport, arts and culture (Fezeka Bayeni), transport, safety & liaison (Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe) and public works (Babalo Madikizela).

''The committee held its first meeting yesterday afternoon [Monday] and is working with the royal family and other stakeholders involved in the preparations for the funeral service.

“A special provincial executive council meeting will be held tomorrow morning [Wednesday] in Bhisho to receive reports from the committee about the preparations for the funeral service and approve submissions,” Sicwetsha said.

Additional reporting by Lulamile Feni

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