January 3, 2006

Mbeki pays last respects to Xhosa King Sigcau

President Thabo Mbeki has joined traditional leaders in paying tribute to the late Xhosa King Xolilizwe Sigcau who died at Number One Military Hospital in Pretoria after after a long period of ill health at the age of 79. Sigcau was an influential figure in rural politics in Eastern Cape. His crafty and engaging style earned him widespread respect among the sometimes conflicting interests of the various Xhosa clans. Sigcau was a "wise old leader" Patekile Holomisa of the Congress of Traditional Leaders stated and added that he was a pillar of strength and brought dignity to the debates of their traditional leaders."
Xolilizwe Sigcau became king of the Xhosa people in 1965. He hailed from the Gcaleka kingdom, which, together with the Rharhabe, constitutes the Xhosa nation. Holomisa said cultural practice dictated the king would be succeeded by the eldest son from his "great wife".
During his 40-year reign, King Sigcau scorned the homeland system under apartheid, which forced groups into ethnically based "independent states." He regarded these territories as mere "Bantustans" and threw his weight behind liberation movements such as the African National Congress. Sigcau also engaged the British government over their role in the subjugation of the Xhosa people. His campaign to get the British to pay reparations for their colonial policies did not have much success but it did lead to former British High Commissioner to South Africa Ann Grant's apology, for past colonial injustices, at a meeting with the Xhosa king. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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