[Mandla Mandela with Rabia Clarje after marriage.]
Cape Town: Nkosi Zwelivelile 'Mandla' Mandela, the eldest grandson of late South African leader Nelson Mandela and Chief of Mvezo in Aba Thembu clan – a position he inherited from his grandfather, has converted to Islam to marry a Muslim girl.
The move has shocked the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa and the Congress leaders are 'tracing' Mandla Mandela to seek answers from him for his 'traditionally opposite' move, local media reported.
According to the media reports, Mandla Mandela converted to Islam about a year ago and married to Rabia Clarke, a Muslim, last weekend. The union took place at the Kensington Mosque last Saturday followed by a reception at the 15 On Orange Hotel in Cape Town.
Former Muslim Judicial Council president Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels who officiated at the ceremony attended by family and friends said: “I can say that it was an honour for me to perform the marriage ceremony for the grandson of our great leader Nelson Mandela.”
Gabriels said Mandela embraced Islam last year. Soon after, Clarke’s father approached Gabriels and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony.
He would not be drawn on the dowry paid to legitimise the ceremony, saying only: “The dowry was agreed between the husband and wife.”
Mandela himself made the announcement late Sunday afternoon.
“I am honoured and delighted to announce my marriage to Rabia Clarke, in Cape Town, on 6 February 2016. I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Rabia’s parents, her extended family and the Muslim community, for welcoming me into their hearts.
“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", he said.
Meanwhile, the Congress of Traditional Leaders in South Africa has warned that being Muslim could affect his ability to uphold Xhosa traditions.
Contralesa Provincial Chairperson Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana told the BBC that Mandela’s new religious affiliation could present a conflict for his subjects.
“There is nothing wrong with a traditional leader following any faith he chooses but we are concerned about whether he will be able to continue performing his responsibilities as a chief,” he said.
Mwelo Nonkonyana said: “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.
“That is our custom", he added.
Chief Nonkonyana also said they were troubled that no Xhosa traditional leaders were present at the ceremony.
Mandela, however, does not seem worried. He was quoted as saying: “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”.