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South African Traditional Chiefs Stunned as Heir to Nelson Mandela Converts to Islam, Marries in a Mosque

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Chief Mandla Mandela who prides himself on being a man of tradition, is facing tough criticisms over his conversion to Islam and may find himself at a crossroads with his loyal subjects after he just got married to a Muslim in a mosque.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders in South Africa (Contralesa), has  expressed disquiet over Chief Mandla Mandela’s conversion to Islam, telling BBC Africa that being Muslim could affect his ability to uphold Xhosa traditions.
Mandla Mandela, who inherited his position as chief of Mvezo in the AbaThembu clan from his grandfather, Nelson Mandela, converted to Islam late last year and got married in a Cape Town mosque last week.
Contralesa’s spokesperson, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane said 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.
Traditional leaders are at times called upon to lead thanksgiving rituals for ancestors, which would include presenting slaughtered animals to them in prayer. Such ritual offerings, which are a key part of traditional ceremonies, are not considered to be in line with the beliefs of many Muslims, the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani said in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela’s heir, Chief Mandela, who prides himself on being a man of tradition, may find himself at a crossroads and might be forced to choose between his new bride and his loyal subjects, and may also face some tough questions over his decision to convert to Islam.
The conversion has implications for him not because of the religion itself but because it creates uncertainty about the chief’s loyalties. And it seems the secrecy has caused concerns within the AbaThembu Royal family, who now question the chief’s commitment to upholding time-honoured traditions.
Chief Nonkonyane says the 42-year-old had already gone against traditional by assuming his wife’s culture.
“According to African tradition, it is the woman that must become part of the family she is marrying into. When she accepted Mandla’s proposal, the expectation was for her to adopt the ways of his people,” he said.
He married Rabia Clarke, his fourth marriage, in a ceremony that was not attended by members of the royal family, leading to reports they were not happy with the union.
But Mr Mandela seems content with his decision. “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 is quoted as saying at the ceremony.
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