South African king going to jail for kidnapping, assault

AFP-JIJI

A traditional king of Nelson Mandela’s Thembu ethnic group was to spend his first night in prison Wednesday as he begins serving a 12-year prison sentence for arson, kidnapping and assault.

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo failed in his 11th-hour bid to evade incarceration by seeking a retrial or a presidential pardon.

A court convicted the controversial king in 2009 of manslaughter, arson and assault for offenses committed more than two decades ago.

He was sentenced to 15 years at the time, but he went on to appeal, which resulted in the Supreme Court reducing his sentence to 12 years after it dropped the culpable homicide charge.

On Wednesday, he sought to urgently extend his bail, but a high court judge in Mthatha, the largest city near Mandela’s rural home of Qunu, threw out the request.

“The application is refused,” ruled judge Nozuko Mjali.

The national prosecution authority said police were going to arrest him so that he could start serving his sentence Wednesday night.

“My understanding is that they (the police) are on their way to locate him wherever he is and make sure that … he must go serve his 12-year sentence,” Mthunzi Mhaga, a prosecution authority spokesman, told reporters.

The 51-year-old king, a self-confessed marijuana smoker, was found guilty of torching dwellings that housed some of his subjects and tenants who had resisted eviction.

In another case he was convicted of publicly assaulting three young men that had already been brutally beaten by his henchmen for alleged rape, housebreaking and theft.

He was also found guilty of kidnapping a wife and children of one of his subjects whom he considered a dissident.

The Supreme Court had concluded that the king “ruled with fear and trepidation” and that “his behavior was all the more deplorable because the victims of his reign of terror were the vulnerable rural poor.”

Two years ago the king publicly disparaged President Jacob Zuma but apologized later.