Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, King of the Thembu

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Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo (aJongilizwe), King of the Thembu

Birthdate: (58)
Death: 1986 (53-61)
Lusaka, Zambia
Place of Burial: South africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Jongilizwe Sampu aDalindyebo, King of the Thembu and Novothi Great Wife
Husband of NN (mother of Siganeko); NN (mother of Mthandeni); Private; NoMoscow and NN (mother of Ndileka)
Father of Siganeko Dalindyebo, Prince; Mankunku Mthandeni Jongisizwe Dalindyebo; Private; Buyelekhaya Zwelinbanzi Dalindyebo, King of the abaThembu and Private
Half brother of Melithafa aJongelizwe; Bambilanga Albert Mtirara Dalindyebo and Private

Managed by: Sharon Lee Doubell
Last Updated:

About Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, King of the Thembu

Inkosi Enkhulu SABATA [Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo] 1954/1980 (deposed), born 25th November 1928, educated in a school in Qhumanco and later transferred to Clarkebury, then transferred to Lovedale late in 1945, and after only six months moved on to Healdtown, his stay at Healdtown was curtailed by his expulsion "for having cut telephone wires and leading a strike", he underwent initiation in 1948, at which time he was given the name Jonguhlanga, "Watch the Country", installed as Paramount Chief of the Thembu on 30 June 1954, married (amongst others) Inkosazana No Moscow and had issue. He died 1986 in Lusaka, Zambia, initially buried there but was re-buried 1989 at Bumbane Great Place in South Africa.


  • Inkosi Enkhulu BUYELEKHAYA
  • Inkosi Jongisizwe Dalindyebo
  • Princess Ndileka Dalindyebo, married c1986 (traditional) and 29th October 1999 in Bumbane (civil) Prince Melika Dlamini of the Swazi Royal Family.

Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo

(1928–1986) was the ruler (Inkosi Enkhulu/ Kumkani) of the Thembu people of South Africa. He was the son of (Inkosi Enkhulu/ Kumkani) Jongilizwe Sampu Dalindyebo ka Dalindyebo ka Ngangelizwe ka Mthikrakra ka Ngubengcuka ka Ndaba ka Zondwa ka Tato ka Madiba ka Hala ka Dlomo ka Nxeko ka (Mboti?) ka Ntande ka Toyi ka Ceduma (Cedwini) ka Dunakazi ka Bhomoyi ka Thembu ka Ntongakazi ka Malandela ka Njanya ka Mbulali ka Zwide.

His rule was marked by conflict with Kaiser Matanzima. This political conflict escalated until Sabata was arrested in 1979 for "subverting the sovereignty of Parliament and the constitutional independence of Transkei, and for violating and injuring the dignity of the State President." Before his arrest Sabata had been described as "somewhat erratic" in habits, but was also respected for having "moral authority" in his resistance of luxuries and criticism of how Kaiser dealt with Apartheid-era South Africa.[1] Sabata left Transkei due to the arrest and ultimately died in exile in Zambia.[2]

His two burials were the subject of an article by Garrey Dennie. In it Dennie described Sabata's first burial as a "tawdry affair" that highlighted the tension between Kaiser and Sabata. Dennie goes on to describe his 1989 reburial as relating to the efforts of Bantu Holomisa to align himself with Dalindyebo's legacy.[3] Among the dignitaries on that day were Bishop Stanley Mogoba and the late Peter Mokaba.


1.South African History Online 2. Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela, pg 296 3.Garrey Dennie, One King, Two Burials (University of the Witwatersrand, African Studies Institute, 1990) 1 Feb 2015

Paramount Chief Sabata Dalindyebo

was born on 25 November 1928. His father died suddenly some five months earlier before marrying his official Great Wife. He was an infant when his father passed away, which resulted in his brother Jongintaba Dalindyebo acting as King. Jongintaba raised Nelson Mandela at the ‘Great Place’ Mqhekezweni when his own father died in the 1920s.

Many years later, former Prime Minister of Transkei George Matanzima would say that old Mhlobo Matanzima had been instrumental in selecting Sabata as heir, but the truth of the matter seems to be that he was unanimously chosen by a national meeting of the Thembu people (September 1929) because his mother outranked the three other wives of the late Jogilizwe.

After a stormy school career — he was expelled at least once and never matriculated — Sabata faced up to his regent and guardian (Chief Dabulamanzi Dalindyebo) who refused to present him for circumcision. Backed once again by the full Thembu council, Sabata took the matter to court and forced the issue. He was duly circumcised, and on 30 June 1954, installed as Paramount Chief of the Thembu.

Almost immediately, Sabata and his advisers found themselves locked in conflict with Kaiser D. Matanzima (K.D.) who, at that point, ranked no higher officially than senior chief of the St Marks District, (the present-day Cofimvaba). K.D. was, however rather older (thirteen years) and considerably better educated (he was a qualified attorney) than the young Paramount. Moreover, he had from a very early stage recognised the possibilities of the Bantu Authorities system, which the then Minister of Native Affairs, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, was busily setting up. Matanzima claimed to be Paramount Chief of 'Emigrant Thembuland', an administrative division set up in 1865 by the Colonial authorities on land confiscated from hostile Xhosa and given to Thembu collaborators. Foremost among these was the first Matanzima, Kaiser's great grandfather and truly the founder of a family tradition.

Sabata resisted Kaiser's claims which cut back his own authority and divided the Thembu nation. However, the Government Anthropologist upheld Matanzima’ claim — hardly surprising, since K.D. was a 'Progressive' chief while Sabata's secretary, Jackson Nkosiyane, was well known as a vigorous opponent of the South African government and all its works, from tribal authorities to rehabilitation schemes.

In 1958, K.D. was recognised as chief of 'Emigrant Thembuland', while Sabata was told that any further "impertinent letters" would result in his deposition. Nkosiyane and other "undesirable advisers" were banished. Sabata did not waver in the face of this dire example.

In 1961, he organised a meeting of some thousand chiefs and headmen to protest against rehabilitation. According to one historian, “in 1963 the Engcobo and Umtata districts were said by police to be the most violent districts in the Transkei."

Sabata supported Victor Poto's Democratic Party against Matanzima in the 1963 elections to the Transkei Legislative Assembly, and he stood by the opposition through Matanzima's successive electoral triumphs, through the defection of Tutor Ndamase (Poto's heir), and, finally, through the disintegration of the Democratic Party itself.

Initially, he refrained from open support of either Hector Ncokazi's radical Democrats or Knowledge Guzana's Parliamentarists. However, as the former gave way to repression and the latter to irrelevance, he increasingly allied himself with the radicals.

Sabata is reputed to be somewhat erratic in his personal habits ("his path is strewn with broken bottles" runs one line of his praises) and he had no intellectual pretensions. He preferred to leave most of the talking in the Legislative Assembly to his representative (and leading D.P. radical), Florence Mancotywa. Nevertheless, his moral authority was immense. Alone among his fellow-chiefs, he resisted the power and luxury which were his for the asking. Alone, he persevered in obstinate and implacable opposition to Kaiser Matanzima and to the very conception of Transkeian independence.

Alone in Transkei, he dared to say aloud what many others were thinking. Outside of Parliament, he was a powerful and hard-hitting speaker. He called the Matanzima brothers "spies and good boys for the South African government". He called Transkei independence "settling for a fowl-run". Furthermore cutting through the bland official rhetoric which no one in Transkei questions or believes, he delivered the following analysis of K.D.'s well-publicised request (1976) for the release of Nelson Mandela: "They say to the Government, 'We want the world to know that we have asked for their release, but don't release them'. If Mandela were brought to the Transkei, I am definitely sure nobody else will be voted for, whether as Prime Minister or as President".

Transkei independence and the Transkei Security Act deprived Sabata of any protection but his high rank and popular respect. His election, in March 1979, as leader of the new Democratic Progressive Party (the rump of the old opposition added to Stella Sigcau's essentially opportunistic Eastern Mpondo breakaway) made him paradoxically more vulnerable. Leading his party in the non-confidence debate of that year, he said, "Let me say we have no confidence in the Government and we feel insecure. We feel so unsafe that literally we feel we may be shot at any time".

Insulated, perhaps, by the belief that Kaiser, his cousin and 'junior' in traditional terms, would accord him due respect (later, in prison, he wrote to Kaiser that their common ancestors had appeared to him in a dream and expressed their shock at his condition — that a King of the Thembu should be found in such a place), Sabata soldiered on. In June 1980 he told a party rally that "the Transkei President visited Pretoria at the insistence of the Boers and accepted independence on terms dictated by them, that the President had an abundance of the necessities of life whilst his people had to live on excreta, and that the President maltreated his people".

For this, and for a casual remark published by a reporter that the Transkei passport was a "useless piece of paper", Sabata was arrested, towards the end of 1979, (by police and armoured cars) and indicted for subverting the sovereignty of Parliament and the constitutional independence of Transkei, and for violating and injuring the dignity of the State President.

The trial took place in Port St Johns in September 1979 to prevent massive support for Chief Dalindyebo. He was found guilty on the latter charge and fined R700 or 18 months. K.D. was not prepared to let him off so lightly. The time had come to break Sabata once and for all. It was suggested to the Dalindyebo Tribal Authority that Sabata should be disciplined for his gross offence.

Sabata's councillors tried to placate the government by adding another R100 onto the fine, but this was not what the Matanzima brothers were after. On 6 August 1980, he was deposed and by the 11th he had fled. (Later that same month, Minister Saul Ndzumo, suddenly fallen from favour, died in prison). Chief Dalindyebo was replaced by his half brother Bambilanga Dalindyebo.

The flight of Sabata Dalindyebo, the last major public figure to oppose the increasingly repressive regime of the brothers Matanzima, marked the end of an era in Transkei.

Paramount Chief Sabata Dalindyebo died in exile in Zambia on 7 April 1986 and was succeeded by his son Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.

In October 1989, two years after Bantu Holomisa came to power in the Transkei, there was a sense of anticipation in the air, due to his willingness to allow Chief Sabata Dalindyebo’s remains to be exhumed and re-buried at Bumbane Great Place in the Transkei. In an episode that angered many, K.D. Matanzima ordered the removal of the body of the Paramount Chief from an Umtata funeral parlour, and buried it unofficially, in order to avoid any confrontation.

The First Wife of the late Thembu King Sabata Dalindyebo, NoMoscow Dalindyebo, a clan cousin of Nelson Mandela and mother of the Thembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, passed away in the Nelson Mandela Hospital in Mthatha on 14 June 2012.


The Ancestry of the abaThembu Kings

During the 16th century Nxeko led his people from Dedesi to the Msana river (where he lies buried), a tributary of the Mbashe River in Mthatha district. At Msana, his Great Place, Nxeko accommodated, merged and assimilated various fragments from communities such as amaBomvana, amaVundle, amaMpondomise and amaMfengu to build his kingship. Although some of the communities had their own recognised traditional leaders, they acknowledged Nxeko as their principal traditional leader and shared abaThembu custom and culture. Nxeko can thus be regarded as the first king of abaThembu.

Nxeko fathered amongst others, two sons, Hlanga from the Great House and Dlomo from the right hand house. Nxeko died and was buried at Msana, in the district of Mthatha. After the death of Nxeko a succession struggle ensued between Hlanga and Dlomo which led to a battle at Msana. Hlanga, the heir apparent, was defeated by Dlomo and the traditional leadership shifted to the lineage of Dlomo. Hlanga left to establish his own separate community which was subordinate to the community led by Dlomo of the abaThembu kingship.

Dlomo was the father of Hala, ancestor of all later Kings. Hala was succeeded by Madiba, Tato, Zondwa, Ndaba and Ngubengcuka - also known as Vusani.

Ngubengcuka ruled from 1800 to 1830. He fathered Mtirara. At his death, Mtirara, his successor, was still a minor and Joyi became regent. Ngubengcuka consolidated abaThembu kingship. He merged with abaThembu fugitives from the wars of turmoil such as amaHlubi, amaTshangase, imiZizi and amaBhele. He successfully defended the kingship against amaQwathi, amaNgwane and amaVundle. Ngubengcuka established a unified Thembuland which stretched from Mthatha to the present day Queenstown. In 1827, during the reign of Ngubengcuka , Matiwane, a Ngwane chief, invaded abaThembu. This was to have a profound impact on the unity of Abathembu, as it forced minor communities like amaTshatshu and others to trek to Queenstown. Matiwane and his followers were defeated by abaThembu with the assistance of the British and amaGcaleka.

When Mtirara came of age he took his rightful place as king of abaThembu. Mtirara fathered three sons: Ngangelizwe, from the Great House, Matanzima from the right hand house and Mfanta from a minor house. Ngangelizwe, was succeeded by Dalindyebo, Jongilizwe (Sampu), Jonguhlanga Sabata, and Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo respectively. Jonguhlanga Sabata was appointed paramount chief of abaThembu as a whole, including Emigrant Thembuland and Bomvanaland with effect from 1 July 1954.

abaThembu Descent line

Possible YDNA Haplogroup E1b1a (aka E-M2)

  • Zondwa (d c1756) and Dlawu
  • Ndaba (d c1800) Ntlazi ; Xuluma ; Bawana and Bhejula
  • Ngubengcuka Vusani (c1790 -1830); Fadana, Regent; Jumba; Nkosiyane; Mni; Mphasa and Nene
  • Mtikrakra (1819 - 1839) Great House Son, King of the abaThembu; Simakade; Mandela Left Hand House Son, Chief of Mveso; Joyi, Regent; Ngonyama; Mgudlwa; Viva; Mqanqeni; Gungubele; Qhwesha; Nohuthe; Ncapayi; & Shweni
  • Ngangelizwe Qeya (c1846 - 1884), King of the abaThembu; Matanzima Raxoti Right Hand House Son; Mbambonduna; Sigunagathi & Mfanta
  • Dalindyebo Alava, (1865-1920) King of the abaThembu; Namnawe; Mrazuli; Landile; Silimela, Regent; Ndumiso, Chief at Mpeko, Umtata; Twatikhulu & Mpondlombini
  • Jongilizwe Sampu, (1902 - 1928) King of the abaThembu; Jongintaba David, Regent; Melingqili; Mpondombini; Melithafa & Norrie
  • Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo (1928 - 1986), King of the abaThembu; Melithafa; Bambilanga Albert Mtirara Dalindyebo & Nxeko
  • Jongisizwe, Buyelekhaya Zwelinbanzi (1964- ), King of the abaThembu, Ndileka & Baka

-Njanye and Bhomoyi's dates taken from: Sihele, E G. (Councillor of the Thembu King of Roda). ‘Who Are The Abathembu; Where Do They Come From?’ Handtyped Manuscript c1933

- The dispute over Kingship between the Matanzima and Dalindyebo descendants was resolved in favour of Dalindyebo ).

See abaThembu Descent Line Project for references and previous generations.

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Sabata Jonguhlanga Dalindyebo, King of the Thembu's Timeline