Nelson Mandela’s Controversial King Takes on South Africa’s President

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, center, flanked by tribal chiefs, arrives to visit former South African President Nelson Mandela at a Pretoria hospital. (Alexander Joe / AFP/ Getty Images / July 9, 2013)

[New York Times]

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, center, flanked by tribal chiefs, arrives to visit former South African President Nelson Mandela at a Pretoria hospital. (Alexander Joe / AFP/ Getty Images / July 9, 2013)
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, center, flanked by tribal chiefs, arrives to visit former South African President Nelson Mandela at a Pretoria hospital. (Alexander Joe / AFP/ Getty Images / July 9, 2013)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela‘s king is a colorful figure. Perhaps a little too colorful.

Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s greatest claim to fame is that he counts South Africa’s first black president among his subjects.

But the king of Mandela’s AbaThembu clan made local headlines Thursday with a string of invective against South Africa’s current leader, Jacob Zuma, so blunt that members of his own entourage reportedly gasped.

Dalindyebo lashed out at Zuma as he delivered a letter to the president’s Pretoria office Wednesday. The king, who also visited Mandela in the hospital this week, reported that Mandela looked good, had recognized Dalindyebo and had responded with his eyes.

Zuma also stopped by the hospital, and issued a statementsaying that Mandela was responding to treatment and remained in critical but stable condition.