AbaThembu King Dalindyebo could soon be released from prison - but only on parole

King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo has been pardoned by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the Day of Reconciliation.
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo has been pardoned by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the Day of Reconciliation.

AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo could soon be a free man - albeit on parole.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Monday that Dalindyebo would benefit from the "remission of sentences" announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in the day.

The remission was for a period of 12 months, which means that Dalindyebo - and other inmates - will have one year taken from his sentence.

Lamola said Dalindyebo was eligible for parole in October.

"Through operational processes, a process will be undertaken as to when and how he will be released. So he benefits [from the remission]," the minister said.

He added that Dalindyebo's application for a presidential pardon was "still on the table of the president and has not yet been considered".

Speaking at a Day of Reconciliation event in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa said that he had granted a "special remission of sentences" to prisoners and those out on parole.

While details were not provided during Ramaphosa's address, he said that the decision was "carefully considered, taking into account the interest of the public and the administration of justice".

Ramaphosa was adamant that prisoners who committed sexual crimes would not qualify.

"Those who have been sentenced for sexual offences, rape and murder of women, are not affected by this announcement," he said.

The AbaThembu royal was sentenced to 12 years behind bars in 2015.

In April this year, a formal application for Dalindyebo's pardon was submitted to Ramaphosa. The presidency said at the time that Ramaphosa was applying his mind to the application.

In 2009, the Eastern Cape high court sentenced Dalindyebo to 15 years in jail on seven counts of kidnapping, three each of assault and arson, and one each of defeating the ends of justice and culpable homicide.

He appealed the sentences, but while it shorted the sentence to 12 years, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in 2015.

He start serving his prison term in December that year.

The charges related to mistreatment of Dalindyebo's subjects in the 1990s on a farm he owned near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

Dalindyebo set fire to the houses of three tenants to evict them because he believed they had breached tribal rules.

He also brutally assaulted three young men in public for allegedly committing crimes. A fourth man, who was suspected of having been party to the alleged crimes, was killed by members of the community. 

The prosecution contended this was on Dalindyebo’s instructions‚ but the Supreme Court of Appeals was, ultimately, not convinced that the king was guilty of culpable homicide for the man's death.

In January 2018, then justice minister Michael Masutha said that only the president - who was Jacob Zuma at the time - could pardon the AbaThembu king.