SA’s future at stake: Why all of us must care about Dalindyebo being jailed

While most South Africans have been catching their breath over the holiday season, the nation’s cornerstone document has been subjected to a test case sure to greatly influence its future path. The country’s much admired Constitution, the rulebook which trumps all other laws, is primarily designed to protect the human rights of every citizen. It is the shield against excessive power wielded by those who control the levels of State and, indeed, traditional rulers. The Constitution, which treats each South African equally, is anathema to those who struggle to absorb the realities of modern society. Especially those beneficiaries of the lottery of the womb, the kings who rule much of rural SA – where their word is law and punishment for breaking it severe. Among their number is Dalindyebo, King of the AbaThembu, whose actions have created a critical test case for the young democracy. His dispensing of justice in the traditional manner broke numerous laws enshrined in the Constitution and after a lengthy process, has landed him with a 12 year jail sentence. Dalindyebo’s defence is that as King, he owns his subjects and has the right to beat or even kill those who do not obey his wishes. Apart from the obvious, this case also holds huge political consequences. The rural area provides the bedrock for the ruling ANC which courts the traditional rulers to ensure the support of their subjects in elections. Many of these people chafe under such Feudal conditions. Sending Dalidyebo to jail will send a message sure to reverberate far beyond the hills of the Eastern Cape. – Alec Hogg

Pretoria – AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo may spend the new year behind bars.

This follows Justice Minister Michael Masutha’s announcement that he had dismissed an application by Dalindyebo to have his case reopened. Masutha made the announcement at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am unable to find anything contained in the aforesaid petition which constitutes further evidence… Therefore I am obliged to dismiss this petition,” Masutha told journalists.

File Photo: President Jacob Zuma meets with abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, December 2014.
File Photo: President Jacob Zuma meets with abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, December 2014.

Dalindyebo’s lawyer Yasmin Omar petitioned Masutha for the king’s trial to be reopened in terms of Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

At the time, his lawyers said that during Dalindyebo’s trial, one of the two assessors assisting the judge died and was never replaced. They argued that the failure to replace the assessor constituted an injustice and had a bearing on the court’s judgment. Dalindyebo also argued that the trial courts ignored customary law.

But Masutha said, in terms of Section 147 of the Criminal Procedures Act, the presiding judge could choose to sit with or without assessors. In terms of Dalindyebo’s customary law argument, Masutha said that would have to be judged by the courts.

“It is my considered view that this point constitutes an argument on a point of law or interpretation of the Constitution which only a competent court, and not myself as executive functionary, is competent to decide on,” Masutha added.

This comes after Dalindyebo applied to the Mthatha High Court on Tuesday to have his bail extended pending Masutha’s announcement on his petition.

The court was expected to rule on his appliction on Wednesday.

Mistreatment of his subjects

Dalindyebo was scheduled to present himself to the Mthatha Correctional Centre on December 30. He was granted a reprieve by the Mthatha High Court on December 23, the day he was meant to report to the prison where he would start serving his 12-year sentence.

In 2009, Dalindyebo was sentenced to 15 years in prison for culpable homicide, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, arson, and kidnapping. He was granted bail pending the outcome of his appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

On October 1, the SCA set aside Dalindyebo’s culpable homicide conviction, but confirmed the rest of the guilty verdicts. It reduced his sentence to 12 years. He was subsequently granted R6 000 bail pending his appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The charges all relate to Dalindyebo’s mistreatment of his subjects between 1995 and 1996, on a farm he owned near Mthatha.

Dalindyebo set fire to the houses of three tenants to evict them because he believed they had breached tribal rules. He publicly assaulted three young men for crimes they had allegedly committed.

Dalindyebo’s subjects beat to death a fourth man, Saziso Wafa, whom they had suspected of having been party to the alleged crimes. They allegedly did this on the king’s instructions. The SCA was however not convinced that the king was guilty of culpable homicide. – News24

More friends in high places - King Dalindyelo with former DA leader Helen Zille.
More friends in high places – King Dalindyebo with former DA leader Helen Zille.
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