AbaThembu royal family left penniless

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo

The family members of jailed abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo fear they will soon be destitute after the government’s decision this week to stop paying his R1.1 million annual salary.

The king had received his salary until February, despite being incarcerated on December 30 for a range of crimes including arson, kidnapping, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and defeating the ends of justice.

But on Tuesday, nothing reflected in his bank account.

Mamkeli Ngam, the spokesperson for the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs in the Eastern Cape, said that, according to the Public Finance Management Act, the department could not continue paying the king as he was no longer rendering any services to government.

“We are applying a rule of no work, no pay,” he said.

This has infuriated Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, the provincial chairman of the Congress of Traditional Leaders
of SA, saying this suggested the king was a government employee.

“Many people think that traditional leaders are salaried. It is a stipend and we believe we are entitled to it,” he said, adding that a better solution was to put the money into a trust for the benefit of the king’s children while the royal family discussed who should act in the monarch’s place.

Dalindyebo, whose certificate of recognition as a king is yet to be withdrawn, is serving a 12-year prison term at the East London Maximum Correctional Centre. However, he has been in and out of hospital since January.

Bishop Vuyisa Plaatjie, organiser of the Free Dalindyebo campaign, said the situation was awful at the king’s residence in Enkululekweni Complex in Mthatha – where his wife, Queen Nokwanda, and children were residing – since the king had ordered the closure of the Bumbane Great Place.

“We do not know how the king’s family is going to survive without his salary. A lot of people are dependent on him, including his extended family. This whole thing means they will die of hunger because even the queen does not work,” Plaatjie said.

On Friday, Plaatjie visited the king’s family members in Enkululekweni, saying he found them “anxious” and waiting for a visit from the Pedi royals, who wanted to offer support.

“We thought that as a king and someone who went into exile together with his late father [King Sabata] to fight for this country, at least government would have a way of supporting the family ... Why should the children and grandchildren of Sabata die of hunger after he died in exile fighting for this country?” asked Plaatjie.

The king’s confidant, Phandulwazi Mhlontlo, also expressed concerns about the situation, adding that they were exploring the possibility of setting up “an abaThembu National Fund to look after the affairs of the king, and the welfare of his children and nation”.

Meanwhile, Nonkonyana said if there was a bill that recognised the king as the head of a traditional court, he would be in a similar position to that of a magistrate.

“Some magistrates committed worse blunders, and some judges hung innocent people, but they are protected by the Roman-Dutch legal system, which still suppresses our customary law,” he said.

As a result, the national executive committee of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA has lodged an urgent application at the Western Cape High Court, to be heard on March 31, challenging the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to charge any traditional leader for executing his or her duties.

“We are raising sharply the issue of the Traditional Courts Bill. We are saying that if there was a bill on traditional leadership, there would have been clarity on the role of His Majesty when the offences were committed,” Nonkonyana said.

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