The chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Ikosi Sipho Mahlangu, will be laid to rest in Mpumalanga on Friday.

The Ndebele king died after losing his battle with COVID-19 last Friday.

Ikosi Mahlangu chaired the proceedings during the Annual Opening of the House by the president and during debates on the president’s speech. The last opening of the house, which he chaired, was in March this year.

Mahangu also regularly appeared before Parliament’s Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs Committee.

One of the issues he raised in the CoGTA committee meeting on 30 March 2021 was related to deaths at initiation schools. He told the committee that the Eastern Cape still recorded deaths during the December initiation period last year, despite submitting a risk adjustment strategy on COVID-19.

“Yes, they did have initiation that took place in December and there were fatalities  there, unfortunately, Chair. There were fatalities. But that has  prompted many provinces to say that we are still in danger of COVID-19. And they requested that they should not  have initiation even this year, after learning from what happened in the Eastern Cape that as much  as there was a risk adjusted document that was submitted by the  Eastern Cape,- we still lost lives in the Eastern Cape,” said Mahlangu.

During the Men’s Parliament in November, Mahlangu spoke out against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and unsafe initiation practices.

“Initiation was not meant to be killing the boys but it’s killing (them) now. Initiation was meant to give us as fathers, those that are in here, an opportunity to sit with your son and be able to inculcate the values and norms that we’re supposed to live with. Values and norms that are supposed to be protecting our sisters and our mothers. But we are starting to see things that culture is not,” he said.

Ikosi uMahlangu is from the Ndzundza Mabusa Traditional Council and has also been vocal on the role  of traditional leaders and communities on the land question.

In 2018, he was one of those who made a presentation to the Constitutional Review Committee. The committee had received oral presentations on whether Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to expropriate land without compensation.

In  his presentation,  Mahlangu said that land must be returned to traditional communities who are some of the rightful owners. He said traditional authorities existed long before the Western system was imposed on African society.

“We are of the view that expropriation of land should not include land under traditional authorities because 1.  that land is already owned and cared for  by those traditional communities. That land is still held in trust by the very same government through the Minister of Rural Development.  So chair, before the Western system of governance was imposed,  the people respected and observed the governance system which establishes traditional leadership as an institution and not a personality in the form of its  traditional leader in what is happening now. Traditional authorities served as political military, spiritual and cultural leaders  and were regarded as custodians of values of societies.”

Mahlangu was one of the first people to call for an extension  to allow public comment on the first Draft Constitution 18th Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to amend Section 25 to expropriate land without compensation. He also participated in the public hearings on  the Bill, which were conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution.

His passing came at a time when the Bill is in its final stages. The Ad Hoc Committee is expected to report back to the National Assembly at the end of August on whether the property clause will be amended or not.

On Thursday, the CoGTA committee in parliament paid tribute to Mahlangu for the role he played in it.

Political parties in the committee unanimously acknowledged his contribution and expressed condolences to his family and the national traditional leadership structure, at a briefing.

“We are conveying our  heartfelt condolences to the National House and his colleagues. And as we all  know he has been a very active leader as the colleagues have said, he has managed to strive to transform the posture of the institution of the Traditional Leadership. We know that there were programmes that they have introduced, –  the one dealing with agrarian revolution, gender based violence and the issues around land rights. We will sorely miss him but to the colleagues,- yourselves at the Department, DG,  and the collective,- just kindly  accept our heartfelt condolences. Be comforted and what is  left as honourable (Khanya) Ceza and honourable (Hlengiwe) Mkhalipi has said,  – including the other colleagues is to say that, – what is left for you is  to honour his legacy and carry forth the good work he was doing and he will forever remain in our hearts. We are going to sorely miss his leadership. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” said committee chairperson, Faith Muthambi.

The national chairperson of Contralesa, Kgoshi Lameck Mokoena, has described Ikosi uMahlangu as a selfless leader, while the chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Sandile Ngomane, also hailed him as a person who was dedicated to his work for the benefit of the people.

The Mpumalanga provincial government has also sent its heartfelt condolences to the Mahlangu family and called for unity in the family during this trying times.

“The premier even lamented his minds because he left at the time we needed him the most remember that the fight that we are grabbling with of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national house of traditional leaders and the institution of traditional leadership as whole were one of our trusted stake holders that would consult from time to time remember the issue of none permission of cultural ceremonies as well as Inkoma it has to be stopped and Inkosi Mahlangu is actual the one led from the front to explain to all affected communities about this decision,” says the acting provincial government spokesperson, George Mthethwa.

Ikosi Mahlangu will be laid to rest at the Ndzundza Mabusa Royal Residence in Mpumalanga. He has been granted a Special Official Funeral by president Cyril Ramaphosa. The national flag will fly at half-mast at every flag station in the country until Friday evening.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs director-general, Mashwahle Diphofa, says COVID-19 restrictions will be implemented at the funeral.

Diphofa says among the 50 people who will be attending – are 10 from government, four traditional leaders and 36 members of the family.

He says a virtual memorial service for Mahlangu is also under consideration.