A South African traditional king, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo has started serving a 12-year jail sentence for crimes including arson, kidnapping and assault.
A spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, Manelisi Wolela, said this on Thursday.
Officials described the case as the first of its kind since the country became a democracy in 1994.
King Dalindyebo, 51, rules over more than 100,000 AbaThembu – an ethnic group that the country’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, belonged to – in Eastern Cape province.
Dalindyebo was sentenced in 2009 for crimes including assaulting, kidnapping and burning property of people who refused to obey his orders.
Some of the victims were allegedly beaten up because their relatives had not presented themselves before the royal court.
Dalindyebo waged a lengthy court battle to avoid jail.
He finally handed himself over to a prison in Mthatha in Eastern Cape just before midnight on Wednesday, said Wolela.
Wolela added that the monarch was then moved to another prison in East London.
In power since 1989, Dalindyebo is one among 10 traditional kings whose duties include presiding over ceremonies and mediating in local disputes.
The flamboyant king has made headlines by calling President Jacob Zuma corrupt and defecting from the ruling African National Congress to the main opposition Democratic Alliance.
Charles Nwaila, Director-General at the Department of Traditional Affairs, said Dalindyebo’s sentence “is an individual case”, which is not expected to affect the reputation of the institution of kingship in South Africa.
“The lesson is that we must be cautious and obey the law, irrespective of our positions.
“The AbaThembu royal authority does not rest only with the king, but with a royal council tasked with choosing the most suitable person to rule and with advising him,” Nwaila said.
Similar structures are in force in all South African kingdoms.
The national legislation stipulates that royal authorities may remove kings on certain conditions, including a jail conviction of more than 12 months without bail.
The AbaThembu royal council will now consider whether to temporarily or permanently replace King Dalindyebo, Nwaila said.
If it decides to substitute him with a new king, it will need to get authorisation from President Zuma, who would withdraw Dalindyebo’s certificate of recognition and grant it to the new ruler. dpa/NAN

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