Tribute to Nkosi Zanomthetho Mtirara


The National Heritage Council (NHC) sends sincere condolences to the AbaThembu Royal Family of Mtirara, Zanomthetho’s mother, children, siblings, AbaThembu people and South Africans comfort on this sad and untimely passing of the well-loved energetic visionary Nkosi Zanomthetho Tembinkosi Mtirara, grandson of Regent King Jongintaba.


He was a true custodian of heritage and a contributor to the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route project led by the National Heritage Council.  Nkosi Zanomthetho was a very humane humble – royal.  He was a descendent from great leaders whose royal legacy also shaped the character of the world-renowned Nelson Mandela in his early years. Altruistically, he never let the greatness of the legacy he carried get in the way of his humanity. President Mandela was raised by Nkosi Zanomthetho’s great grandfather.


He knew how to take complex phenomena and make them accessible and link them to the development needs and opportunities of his grandfathers’ people.


“I hope a living and permanent tribute to the life of Nkosi Zanomthetho will include some of his aspirations that I learned when interacting with him:

  • A more decent and better recognized role for African Royalty and their meaningful place as custodians of culture and developmental needs of their communities; and
  • An accessible functional road to Mqhekezweni, safety and social welfare for people of rural Tembuland and Mqhekezweni through the proposed agricultural initiative in Mqhekezweni as well as a multifunctional mega sporting facility”, says Adv. Sonwabile Mancotywa, CEO of the National Heritage Council.


Anyone who met Nkosi Zanomthetho will know of his deep spirituality, his undivided commitment to the development of his people and his passion for the preservation of cultural heritage.  Some know him as an active father, son, grandson, brother and neighbour. Nkosi Zanomthetho was a father and a friend of children.



The passing of His Royal Highness is a painful loss to his family, a terrible loss to the heritage sector, to rural development, society, Africa and Humanity.  Nkosi Zanomthetho was a foremost champion of rural development, lived as one called to a purpose greater than himself, was anxious to uphold the legacy of the AbaThembu people and the African people.


He was a man on a mission, who diligently pursued the obligations transmitted to him by his Grandfather Nelson Mandela and left for him through Queen Nozolile from his Grandfather Justice Mtirara, and all his forebears. He had a profoundly deep respect for eBhotwe, for His Majesty King Zwelibanzi,


Mancotywa says “He was fully behind the smooth processing of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites World Heritage Proposal – which he championed with every fibre of his being by seeing through the declaration of Mqhekezweni as a protected heritage site.”


His life and his early passing testifies to the call that is always made by wise people that:

“We must make the years count instead of just counting the years.” He made his few years count, he chose areas of focus that he will never be forgotten.


We, as a heritage organisation, remember him through his works:


  1. He championed South Africa’s World Heritage nomination of Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites. He made world heritage local and accessible;
  2. His pursued rural development and better opportunities for his people in unforgettable ways;
  3. Commitment to social cohesion in urban and rural areas; safer communities; discipline and respect;
  4. Had a sense of urgency for crime to end in rural spaces for rural people to live in safety and peace;
  5. His commitment to unity of AbaThembu people regardless of where they live. He did not only resist every opportunity to be drawn into divisive activities that are visited upon the children of Ndyebo but he preached unity of AbaThembu.
  6. He interacted with other countries’ traditional leaders in growing the legacy of his AbaThembu Royalhouse by taking messages of AbaThembu to different parts of the world;


The NHC passes its sincere sympathies and condolences to the family and the Tembu nation and to African Royalty as a whole.


Lala ngoxolo Mthembu Madiba, Dlomoo Sopitsho Yem Yem Ngubengcuka !

In the short time that you lived, you compressed work worth hundreds of years and a vision of thousands of years!

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