Traditional leaders around the country held behind-the-scenes talks with high ranking officials of the ANC, including President Jacob Zuma, in a bid to free jailed AbaThembu king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.
The leaders want Dalindyebo – currently serving 12 years at East London’s maximum security prison for arson, kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and defeating the ends of justice – to get a presidential pardon or clemency.
Dalindyebo began serving his sentence on December 30 last year following a protracted legal battle which was only finalised when the Constitutional Court dismissed his application, with Justice Minister Michael Masutha following suit later after he applied for a retrial.
Dalindyebo’s confidante, Phandulwazi Mhlontlo, confirmed to City Press this week that several meetings had taken place between traditional leaders and senior ANC politicians.
He said on March 29, a delegation of traditional and religious leaders met with ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, and NEC members Enoch Godongwana and Gugile Nkwinti.
Mhlontlo, who was present at a meeting at the Joburg Country Club, said the ANC leaders pointed it out to the traditional leaders that Dalindyebo’s incarceration had nothing to do with the ruling party and that the monarch was not targeted because he had joined the DA from the ANC, but rather it was the courts that had decided.
“They promised to pass our request that the king gets presidential pardon or clemency to the president himself and Justice Minister Michael Masutha,” said Mhlontlo, adding that the ANC officials were reluctant to get involved because they did not want to interfere with the courts but sympathised with the king.
Representing the king at the meeting with ANC leaders was Mhlontlo and other AbaThembu leaders, including Nkosi Mdengentonga Liwani, Dalubuhle Plaatjie, Archbishop Mbulelo Mvubu, Nkosi Bamvotele Tsomo and Nkosi Gwebindlala Mtirara.
According to Mhlontlo, last month a separate meeting on the matter was held between President Jacob Zuma and AmaXhosa king Zwelonke Sigcawu, Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) president Setlamorago Thobejane, his deputy, Nyalala Pilane, national secretary Xolile Ndevu and the CEO of AmaXhosa Kingdom Zolani Mkiva.
Prince Mlamli Ndamase – convener of the Eastern Cape kings in efforts to free Dalindyebo – said that King Zwelonke confirmed to him that he and the Contralesa delegation had met the president last month but did not have intimate details.
Ndamase said their position was unequivocal on the king’s situation.
“The president is the only one who is empowered by the laws of this country to free the king through clemency or parole. It is his prerogative to release him without consulting anyone. He alone can release the king,” said Ndamase, who is also an advocate.
Mkiva could neither confirm nor deny the meeting with the president, saying they could “not outline the details” of the work that is being done.
“In its last NEC meeting in Johannesburg last month, Contralesa took a decision to take the matter up with the state. We are engaging with the state politically and legally,” Mkiva said.
He said they were also looking at a legal route to challenge the constitutionality of the incarceration of the king.
“We are going to stop at nothing in ensuring that the king is released from jail. All the kings in the country are speaking in one voice on this matter,” he said.
Mkiva, a cultural expert and poet affectionately known as Imbongi Yesizwe [The Nation’s Poet] said it was unAfrican to jail a king.
“It’s a very sad and bad cloud above the nation which is a curse to the people of this country. The new dispensation does not have this experience of dealing with an incarceration of a king. This thing was not supposed to happen in the first place. All that we want is for the king to be released from jail as soon as possible,” Mkiva said.
Mdengentonga Liwani, Dalindyebo’s spokesperson who was part of the delegation that met the ANC leaders in Joburg, said they wanted the king to be released “unconditionally” before the local government elections.
“If the king is not released this country, particularly the ANC, will continue to experience the wrath of the ancestors. The reason the king joined the DA was because he was protesting against the foreign tendencies in the ANC. Him and his father [Sabata Dalindyebo] are the only kings who went to exile fighting for the country,” Liwani said.
Mwelo Nonkonyana, chairperson of Contralesa in the Eastern Cape, said the attempts to free the king which were started by the provincial structure had been endorsed by the national leadership which meant there could be a breakthrough as traditional leaders were united with one voice.