Africa

SA's Thembu King Dalindyebo jailed for 12 years

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo (10 July 2013) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The case of Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo has divided the abaThembu royal family

A South African king has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for a series of charges including kidnapping, assault and arson.

Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, from Nelson Mandela's Thembu ethnic group, was jailed by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

He had approached the SCA to overturn a 2009 court ruling on the matter, which had sentenced him to 15 years.

The charges relate to a dispute he had with some of his subjects more than two decades ago.

He was accused of kidnapping a woman and her six children, setting their home on fire and beating up four youths, one of whom died, because one of their relatives had failed to present himself before the kings's traditional court.

The king has never denied the charges but believed his actions were in line with disciplining his subjects, reports say.

In Bloemfontein in the Free State Province, a panel of judges looked at his case in August and the evidence presented before sentencing.

The Eastern Cape High Court had sentenced him to 15 years for the charges, along with one of culpable homicide, which has since been dropped.

'Deplorable'

The SCA was unimpressed with the time it took for this matter to be resolved and blamed Dalindyebo for the delays.

It revealed that he has changed lawyers 11 times, leading to more than 30 postponements, in a bid to avoid prison.

"His behaviour was all the more deplorable because the victims of his reign of terror were the vulnerable rural poor, who were dependent upon him," the SCA said in its ruling.

The king is no stranger to controversy, he left the ruling African National Congress and joined the main opposition Democratic Alliance in July 2013, after publicly insulting President Jacob Zuma. He later apologised.

Prince Simphiwe Pantshwa, from the abaThembu royal family, told the BBC: "We are very shocked, he is a senior member of the royal family so there is a big sense of loss and uncertainty."

"We do not want this to destabilise the royal house so we will be watching the developments with keen interest," he said.

The case has caused divisions within the royal family, with some feeling the king was being victimised, while others were adamant that no-one should be above the law, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

With the seat soon to be vacant they are expected to look at appointing a new successor, who is likely to be the king's 23-year-old son, our correspondent says.

Dalindyebo has two days to report to prison.

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