‘Ramaphosa sold us a dummy’ – traditional leaders on president's failure to release Dalindyebo

President Cyril Ramaphosa with acting abaThembu king Azenathi Dalindyebo. Traditional leaders feel short-changed by the president. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana
President Cyril Ramaphosa with acting abaThembu king Azenathi Dalindyebo. Traditional leaders feel short-changed by the president. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

Traditional leaders slam president for his failure to follow through on promises to release king Dalindyebo after elections

Some traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape have accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of “using” and “playing” them ahead of the national general elections in May this year.

The leaders feel that they were sold a dummy and misled by Ramaphosa into voting in the hope that their king, AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, would be released through a presidential pardon.

The traditional leaders, who had threatened to instruct their subjects not to vote ahead of the elections, said they changed their stance when the president announced that he was “applying his mind” to the request for a presidential pardon for Dalindyebo.

Read: Pardon, but not because of threats

Prince Mthunzi Ngonyama, spokesperson for the incarcerated Dalindyebo, said Ramaphosa seemed to have “put the matter in the dustbin” after winning the elections.

Ngonyama claimed that before the elections the king’s release seemed imminent with speculation rife that he could be released even before or soon after the polls.

But four months later nothing has happened.

This is despite former justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha having recommended to the president in April already that Dalindyebo should be pardoned.

Ngonyama said in his last interaction with Dalindyebo he picked up that the king felt powerless because he had complied with all the processes, including applying for a presidential pardon.

“There is nothing he can do now because he has been hopeful that his release would happen.

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo

“At some point he even packed his things in his cell thinking he would soon be released but that all came to nothing,” said Ngonyama. He also accused the acting king Azenathi Dalindyebo, the son of the jailed king, of having no interest in the release of his father because he was “enjoying all the limelight and benefits that go with the throne”.

“The president is good at patronising people. I led marches to hand over petitions at the Union Buildings and picketing on May 5 outside Ellis Park Stadium [at the ANC Siyanqoba rally] asking the president to pronounce on granting a presidential pardon to the AbaThembu king. Some [people], including the acting king, portrayed me as an attention seeker who will stop at nothing to have his voice heard just to be popular.

“The longer he [Ramaphosa] keeps quiet the more he validates my earlier stance that he could not be trusted post-elections because this matter has suddenly gone to the bottom of his priority list and that is what is happening right now,” Ngonyama said.

He said it was clear that the report by Masutha, after he approached the king’s victims and consulted widely about the matter after being tasked by the president, was now gathering dust at the Union Buildings.

Read: Will Dalindyebo be pardoned? It’s all down to one man now: Ramaphosa

Ngonyama said he had thought the president would have made an announcement on his decision at least in his first 100 days in office.

“It is shocking that he [Ramaphosa] has even gone to lay wreaths at the graveside of late King Sabata Dalindyebo, [Buyelekhaya’s father] before the elections accompanied by the acting king, but today he [the president] is the very person who is holding on to the keys of releasing king Sabata’s son from jail,” Ngonyama said.

Prince Mlamli Ndamase, chairperson of the king’s council which had several meetings with former president Jacob Zuma and later Ramaphosa on the matter of Dalindyebo, said he was also disappointed that the king was still in jail.

“We are really disappointed at the moment. Even those politicians who approached me before the elections promising us that the king would be released are nowhere to be seen now.

“It is clear that they were just tricking us into voting,” Ndamase said.

He said two months ago he had approached a senior minister in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet to remind the president about the matter but has not received any feedback.

The president’s spokesperson Khusela Diko referred all media enquiries on the matter to the justice ministry.

“The matter relating to King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo is currently being attended to by the department of justice, following concerns raised by the president’s legal counsel on the recommendations received from [former justice] minister Masutha earlier this year,” Diko said.

leaders feel that they were sold a dummy and misled by Ramaphosa into voting in the hope that their king, AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, would be released through a presidential pardon.

The justice department has not responded to questions sent for comment.

Dalindyebo began his 12-year prison sentence in December 2015.

This was after he was found guilty of arson, assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

He had initially been sentenced to 15 years by the Mthatha High Court, but after appealing, the Supreme Court of Appeals reduced his sentence to 12 years.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders and the provincial leader of Contralesa in the province, said they also shared the same sentiment that traditional leaders were an important institution before the elections.

“We are really disappointed about how government is going slow on our things. But on this issue we are unable as a leadership to pinpoint the blame on government.”

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