Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela have reportedly converted to Islam and his new found faith may cost him his crown as the Xhosa of Mvezo. His decision to convert to Islam has caused uneasiness among the Congress of Traditional Leaders in South Africa (CONTRALESA), who said being Muslim could affect his ability to uphold Xhosa traditions.
Mandla Mandela converted to Islam late last year and got married to Rabia Clarke, a Capetonian Muslim woman last week. Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, who wedded the two in a Cape Town Mosque said that Mandla embraced Islam two months ago. Mandla is believed to have converted to Islam in order to marry Rabia Clarke.
He inherited the position of chief of Mvezo in the AbaThembu clan after the death of his grandfather, Nelson Mandela.
Speaking on his new found faith, the spokesperson for the Congress, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane, said Mandela’s new religious affiliation could breed conflict for his subjects and affect his duties as a traditional chief.
According to Chief Nonkonane, traditional chiefs sometimes lead thanksgiving rituals for ancestors, which would include presenting slaughtered animals to them in prayer. Mandla Mandela “will be unable to continue performing his responsibilities as a chief” as such practices are not considered to be in line with the beliefs of many Muslims.
“As traditional leaders, we expect the woman to convert to the Thembus, because she is married to the Chief of the AbaThembu, not the other way round,” he said.
Chief Nonkonane said they have received national and international inquiries on the matter and have been trying to reach Mandla who is believed to be on his honeymoon, to clarify things.
“Mandla is being called up by the people of Mvezo, not by Contralesa. People want to get hold of him so that they can get clarity on this matter.”
On whether he would be removed as traditional Chief of Mvezo, Nonkonane said, “He belongs to the AbaThembu Royal Family, we don’t have powers to remove him, it is the people of Mvezo who have those powers.”
Mr. Mandela has been married three times. In 2004, he married Tando Mabuna Mandela, in 2010, he married 20-year old Anaïs Grimaud (who later changed her name to Nkosikazi Nobubele).
His marriage to Anais was annulled after his first wife took him to court for being a bigamist – and the paternity scandal that revealed the son she had for him in 2011 was fathered by someone else.
In December 2011, he married Swazi princess, Nodiyala Mbali Makhathini, but that marriage was also annulled in 2014.
Although his new found faith seem to be posing a threat to his position as the Xhosa traditional chief of Mvezo, Mandla seems content with his decision. Speaking after his wedding ceremony, Mandla had this to say:
“Although Rabia and I were raised in different cultural and religious traditions, our coming together reflects what we have in common: We are South Africans.”