Sun Sep 21 14:03:21 SAST 2014

Uncle Madiba to the rescue

Jan 28, 2013 | MATTHEW MPAHLWA |

THE son of Chief Nokwanele Balizulu of Qunu, Sibabaliwe Salatiso (19), returned home last month after being in hiding for seven years in fear of his life.

GRATEFUL: Nokwanele Balizulu's son was saved by former president Nelson Mandela
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Madiba had the young chief smuggled away

His family says they have his uncle, former president Nelson Mandela, to thank for saving his life and for lobbying for his return.

Salatiso came back from his family-imposed exile in Pietermaritzburg to go through the ritual to manhood in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Salatiso's late father, Chief Zwelebango Balizulu, was arrested by the apartheid government with political activists Mpumelelo Gola and Jekwa Kweza.

After serving a lengthy sentence on Robben Island, he was released in 1991. He returned to his family and resumed his duties as chief that same year.

But he fell victim to a village feud, which led to his assassination in 1995. His twin brother Dalibonga was arrested for killing him but later released due to insufficient evidence.

After his father's death Chief Salatiso also became the target of an assassination plot because he was next in line to become the chief.

His mom, Chief Nokwanele, tells Sunday Worldof the arrangements former president Nelson Mandela made before he fell ill in December for the boy 's permanent return home and for him to go through his passage to manhood.

He underwent the circumcision ritual in early December and came down from the mountain a week after Mandela's grandson Bambatha's ceremony, which was also held in Qunu last month.

The family is related to Mandela through the Madiba clan and their homestead is adjacent to Mandela's Qunu homestead.

"He used to visit during school holidays.

"And over the years Mandela's bodyguards would bring him to Qunu to visit us," says his proud mom.

Mandela's grandson Chief Mandla Mandela confirms that he knows young Chief Salatiso but is not aware of his return.

"Yes, I do know Nokwanele's son, but I did not know of the arrangements my grandfather made for her child to study outside the Eastern Cape," says Mandla.

Senior family member Silumko Mandela says Mandela arranged with the widowed Chief Nokwanele for her son to go into hiding.

"The situation at the time was very volatile. Nokwanele's family lived in fear and his son was young.

"So ixhego (grandfather Mandela) decided it was best for the young chief to leave the village. But we did not know where he went," says Silumko.

Says Salatiso's mother: "Mandela summoned me to his house and told me he was arranging for Salatiso to go into hiding.

"I reluctantly agreed, though my son was still young and I was emotionally attached to him. But I had to let go to save his life."

She says Mandela arranged with a Madiba clan cousin who lived in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal to take the boy under his wing and arrange for him to go to school there.

"Utata (Mandela) took my son away, with his bodyguards in tow.

"Since then money was channelled through for his stay and studies in Pietermaritzburg.

"All this was done through tata's lawyers in Mthatha, " she says.

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