A sheep and 10 chickens were slaughtered as the family of controversial abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelinbanzi Dalindyebo gathered for what could be his last Christmas meal as a free man.
But the family has not given up hope.
King Dalindyebo wants a retrial because he says the court that convicted and sentenced him was not properly constituted, as one of the judge’s assessors had died in the middle of the trial.
The family is also petitioning Justice Minister Michael Masutha to seek a presidential pardon for the monarch.
Princess Ndileka, the king’s elder sister, and Prince Siganeko, his younger brother, spoke to City Press this week and said they were optimistic that their brother would not go to jail.
The king was to have handed himself in at Mthatha’s Wellington Prison on Wednesday to begin serving his 12-year sentence for arson, kidnapping, defeating the ends of justice and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
But last-minute representations by his legal team that afternoon saw him being given at least until December 30 to hand himself over to the authorities.
Dalindyebo’s family members are putting on a brave face and are hoping he won’t have to serve any prison time.
“To be honest, we are not taking this lightly. It is something very difficult to accept. We put our trust in the Almighty. It’s not easy for our brother to take this thing, but we know one day we will get through it,” said Ndileka.
Siganeko said they viewed the king as “the shrine” and the father figure of the abaThembu, and they would fight to the bitter end to ensure he did not go to jail.
“King Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo will not submit himself to correctional services because there is a ministerial petition that is being submitted.
“The decision by the Constitutional Court [not to grant him the right to appeal] does not serve any justice for the king. His views are that the traditional systems remained intact prior to the 1996 Constitution, but now he is subjected to unfair treatment by the current government that we [the abaThembu] see incarcerating our king,” said Siganeko.
Speaking from the king’s private residence in Enkululekweni Complex in Mthatha, Siganeko said it was sad that his brother, who was prepared to lay down his life for the liberation of the country, was being sacrificed in this way.
Dalindyebo is now seeking to have the case reopened on the grounds that his trial had been unfair and improperly constituted.
In papers in the possession of City Press, the king argues that when the trial started, there were two court assessors who had assisted the judge. One of the assessors died while the trial was under way, but the case continued despite this.
In court papers submitted to the Mthatha High Court this week, Dalindyebo said: “Mr Justice Alkema proceeded with the trial with the single assessor. In doing so, the learned judge erred and/or misdirected himself. The conviction and sentence imposed on me is unlawful in that same was not handed down by a court properly constituted as it was when the trial commenced.
“I depose to this affidavit in pursuit of relief contemplated in section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, for the reopening of my case and for this matter to be considered by the honourable minister of justice, the Mthatha High Court and the honourable president of the republic.”
On the issue of the faction that calls itself the royal family for the kingdom of the abaThembu, which wrote to President Jacob Zuma in 2012 asking him to withdraw a certificate of recognition for the king due to his “unroyal” behaviour, Siganeko said Dalindyebo’s immediate family was the only royal family.
He said Prince Azenathi, the king’s eldest son, would be king regent if their efforts to keep Dalindyebo out of jail failed.
“We recognise Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo of the abaThembu as the regent who will take the reins if the king has to go to jail,” he said.
Ndileka, who lives in Swaziland, said she went home especially because she wanted to spend Christmas with her brother.
“We are celebrating Christmas the way we usually do as a family. Nothing is going to stop us to do whatever. We will do everything that people do on Christmas with our brother,” she said.
She said they had slaughtered a sheep and 10 chickens, and had a braai and drinks with family and close friends.
Siganeko said this Christmas was spent at home with the king as host, and sharing festivities with their children and family.
“We plan to have fun with King Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, our beloved brother. We will spend that time with him, reassuring him of our bond as a family and our loyalty to him as we understand the difficulties he is going through at this juncture,” said Siganeko.
During Christmas lunch, the king thanked the family for being together and for standing by him.
Siganeko told City Press Dalindyebo was in a “jovial mood”.
“Remember, King Zwelibanzi is a man of vigour. His ethos is always high. He never ceases to take us forward as a family and as a nation. This time teaches us that we must gather around His Majesty, King Zwelibanzi,” he told the family.
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