Mandela was a member of the Madiba clan of the Thembu tribe of the Xhosa ethnicity (again, even that can get a little complicated), although as that designation came about during the apartheid era it is now disputed that the Thembu and the Xhosa have anything at all in common. The Thembu claim to be an ancient kingdom, originating in the area of the Congo before moving into southern Africa. However, this is somewhat disputed now as it is being used as a basis for claims to a greater prestige and perhaps even independence (more on that later) which the South African government (the ANC as the country is effectively a one-party state) adamantly opposes. Mandela was related to the local chieftain family but, for reasons which will become clear, most of his devoted adherents prefer not to highlight the relationship. He was the uncle, for example, of Kaiser Matanzima who does not have a very good reputation in South Africa these days. His status is a little unclear as his titles are sometimes royal and sometimes republican in nature, depending on what one is reading. His unpopularity stems from the fact that he worked with the White minority government. This cooperation is often cited as the “price” for his being recognized as the paramount chief (sometimes rendered as king) of the “Emigrant Thembus” which was a separatist group.
Chief/king Kaiser Matanzima supported the Bantu or Black Authorities Act of 1951 by which the apartheid government set up officially recognized homelands for the native people. They called this an effort at genuine cultural preservation for the native African people. Others would say that the government was doing this to have a place to expel Blacks who caused problems in the parts of South Africa where the White minority was most concentrated. Chief/King Kaiser Matanzima claimed that he had his own agenda in mind even though it meant breaking with the African National Congress (the communist-coalition revolutionary group of Mandela). Matanzima had a vision for Black South African liberation coming from the establishment of a federation of all-Black states whereas the ANC was determined to stay within the White-established South Africa while using popular pressure and acts of violence to force the Whites out of power. Matanzima became very unpopular with the radicals because of this, some of whom even tried to assassinate him. Nonetheless, Transkei became the first “independent” Bantustan (as a republic) with Matanzima being elected Prime Minister. However, some at the time accused him of corrupt dealings and ruling like a dictator while he later clashed with the South African government over territorial demands. At one point, Matanzima tried to assert actual independence but was stopped when the South African government threatened to cut off the financial assistance he depended on.
In 1979 King/Chief/Prime Minister Kaiser Matanzima became State President and made his brother prime minister. In 1980 he banned opposition parties including the Democratic Progressive Party led by Sabata Dalindyebo who went into exile in Zambia and joined the ANC. Dalindyebo was also challenging Matanzima for the kingship of the tribal nation. Matanzima continued to keep politics “in the family”. He appointed the father-in-law of Nelson Mandela to his cabinet and when Mandela was arrested he tried to persuade him to leave prison and go into exile in Transkei. Mandela had been arrested, tried and convicted of complicity in 156 acts of public violence, mostly terrorist bombings which took the lives of many men, women and children. Mandela himself pleaded guilty to these charges and the South African government offered to release him if he would only renounce violence but Mandela refused to do so (which is why Amnesty International refused to designate Mandela as a political prisoner). In any event, it seemed to work out for him as his imprisonment was not harsh and Mandela was able to keep in contact with his followers, maintain his leadership and become a very rich man all while in prison. He refused to even speak with his uncle, classifying him as collaborating with the apartheid system which is what the ANC said about anyone that did not go along with their leadership and agenda.
|The Thembu King|
Since that time, the friendly relationship he and his father had with the ANC government came to an abrupt end as King Buyelekhaya blamed President Jacob Zuma for failing to intervene to stop the criminal proceedings against him. He has since pointed out the long list of unsavory things Zuma has done without consequence. Also since that time he has, in a mild way, tried to secede from South Africa and create a Kingdom of Thembuland, taking two-thirds of South Africa with him as “historic territory”. The South African government has pretty much ignored this and the King has said that he is strictly non-violent and will accomplish his goal by educating people on the “true” history of the Thembu which he has said were an ancient and powerful nation that have been unjustly eclipsed in South Africa. In particular he has railed against the most high-profile South African tribal-kingdom of the Zulus, complaining that these were nothing compared to the Thembu people and that they only achieved status by working with the Whites. He has also complained that the Zulu king receives far more government funds (63 million rands a year) than he does because of their undeserved (in his view) notoriety. He has also demanded $124 million in damages from the government and a whopping $10.8 billion for the “humiliation” that his trial caused the Thembu people.