Kaiser Matanzima

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Kaiser Daliwonga Mathanzima (Matanzima) (15 June 1915 – 15 June 2003) was a leader of the Transkei in South Africa.


Born in Qamata, Eastern Cape, a nephew of Nelson Mandela, Mathanzima received the name Daliwonga (meaning "Maker of Majesty") upon reaching manhood as an "isikhahlelo" (praise name). Mathanzima studied law at Fort Hare University and completed his articles in the Transkei capital, Mthatha, in 1948. However, he never practised law, instead he involved himself in Thembu and Transkei politics.

Public service[edit]

Made paramount chief of the "Emigrant Thembus", a breakaway and sub-group to the Thembus, Mathanzima's support of the South African government's Bantu Authorities Act (1951), which looked to foster traditional African leadership structures, gave the Act credibility in the eyes of many chiefs, but saw him part ways with Mandela politically (although the two initially remained friends, with Mathanzima acting as best man at Mandela's wedding).


In his 1975 book Independence my Way, Mathanzima argued that liberation would come through a federation of black states, such as Transkei, rather than through liberation movements like the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress (ANC). Mandela condemned Mathanzima's de facto support of apartheid.

Mathanzima became a member of the United Transkeian Territorial Council in 1955 and an Executive Council member of the newly created Transkeian Territorial Authority (TTA) in 1956. In 1961 he graduated to Chairman of the TTA, survived an assassination attempt in December 1962 by members of the Pan Africanist Congress, and in 1963 was an obvious candidate for Chief Minister of the newly formed Transkeian Legislative Assembly. Mathanzima founded the Transkei National Independence Party, led it to election victories in 1968 and 1973, and was sworn in as Prime Minister in 1976 when Transkei became the first bantustan to gain nominal independence. According to an article published in Time Magazine at the time, though Transkei declared independence theoretically as a “free state”, Mathanzima ruled the territory as a de facto puppet-state dictator, banning local opposition parties and buying at subsidized prices Transkei farmlands offered by the South African government.[1]

Mathanzima clashed with the South African government over various issues, mostly connected with territorial demands made by Mathanzima. This led to his announcement on 2 February 1978 that Transkei would break all diplomatic ties with South Africa, including the non-aggression pact between them. He ordered that all South African Defence Force members seconded to the Transkei Army leave Transkei by 31 March. But he soon backed down in the face of Transkei's dependence on South African economic aid.


In 1979, after the death of Botha Sigcau, Mathanzima became State President, with his brother George as Prime Minister. Their approach included jailing protesters and banning such opposition parties as, in 1980, the Democratic Progressive Party. That party's leader, Thembu King Sabata Dalindyebo, was convicted of "violating the dignity" of President Mathanzima, but escaped to Zambia and joined the ANC.

Mandela's father-in-law was a member of the Transkei cabinet, and Mathanzima attempted to persuade Mandela to accept exile in Transkei in lieu of imprisonment. Mandela not only refused, but declined to see Mathanzima during his imprisonment on Robben Island, fearing that such a meeting would legitimise the bantustans to the international community.


On 20 February 1986, faced with South African evidence of corruption, Mathanzima was forced to retire as President. He was succeeded by his brother George. Kaiser Mathanzima was still described as Transkei's effective leader for a time,[2] but the two soon fell out and Kaiser was temporarily detained in the Transkei gaols in 1987; upon release, he was restricted to Qamata.

Mathanzima died in Queenstown on his 88th birthday. He received an official funeral, but not a state one as former allies and supporters had hoped. The continued mixed feelings toward him in South Africa were reflected in then President Thabo Mbeki's eulogy for him, and Mandela's speaking warmly of Mathanzima's role as a Thembu elder.

Mathanzima's grandson, King Lwandile Zwelenkosi Mathanzima, ruler of Western Thembuland of Eastern Cape, died on 22 May 2010.