OPINION | Ramaphosa turns blind eye to king’s pardon

It is now common knowledge that the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) in the Eastern Cape has consistently campaigned for the release of abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.
In June, Azapo wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa pleading with him to pardon the king in terms of Section 84(2)(1) of the Constitution.
The Constitution provides for the prerogative of the president to release on pardon whoever the president deems fit to be pardoned.
Many support this initiative by the organisation of Bantu Biko. However, there are a few detractors who have sought to discredit the campaign.
These fault-finders have accused us of not considering the victims of the king’s misdemeanours. They ask if the king apologised to the victims.
Some questioned why the president would pardon “a criminal”.
In a calculated move to bolster this negative drive, the noble Son of Abathembu is dismissed as “the dagga-smoking king”. One newspaper even carried a deliberately misleading headline “Free Rasta King”.
We need to attend to all these misinformed and baseless conclusions, so that we can wrestle with the real reasons why the ruling party, which enjoys a comfortable voter base in the Eastern Cape, would be cold towards our campaign. Such indifference also finds expression in Ramaphosa ignoring Azapo’s written pleas with respect to this matter.
Azapo’s call for the release of the king is not intended to question the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
We are by no means asking Ramaphosa to review the decision of the court.
An organisation of Azapo’s intellectual reputation would be naturally aware it is not within the powers of the president to do so.
We are just calling for a presidential pardon in terms of the provisions of the law.
The king would not be the first to be pardoned.
The ANC-led government has pardoned more than 200 criminals without any noticeable protest from those who are now raising eyebrows.
This government even invited apartheid murderers to apply for statutory pardon beyond the TRC process.
Perpetrators and architects of the mass murder of our people are members of the ruling party, and continue to enjoy their retirement under such protection. This prerogative of the president to grant pardon is de signed by law to primarily consider the public interest, rather than that of the victim.
It is Azapo’s contention that traditional leaders and communities have been hard done by when a constitution was agreed that merely accommodated the kings by recognising them subject to the ambit of Roman- Dutch Law. The issue of traditional courts was postponed and meant to be addressed through an Act of parliament. The Traditional Courts Bill has been gathering dust, leaving our kings in limbo. Our kings are without power. Those that have presided over traditional courts could be jailed at any time.
It is this impasse that renders the release of King Dalindyebo to be in the public interest. Judges in the western systems espoused by the Constitution of the Republic are not punished when their decisions are found wrong by a higher court. They enjoy judicial immunity. The same privilege is not extended to our kings.
We will not dignify the dagga red herring with a response. You would be surprised at how many people in high places puff the herb. As for the murder allegation, the Supreme Court of Appeal found the king not guilty of murder. We are surprised that the NPA has not prosecuted the real murderers.
More concerning should be that Ramaphosa has not re sponded to a plethora of letters to his office about the plea to release the king; and that the ruling party refuses to partici pate. Not surprisingly, this is the same Ramaphosa who runs whenever the Zulu monarch is dissatisfied with something. Clearly, the president and ruling party are sending a message not all traditional leaders are equal. This is not a sign of respect for the Zulu monarch, but premised on the insatiable greed for votes at all costs. To his credit, the Zulu monarch has thrown his weight behind the call to release King Dalindyebo.
It is not only Azapo that has been ignored by Ramaphosa on this matter. The South African Council of Churches, Taxi industry and the Xhosa Monarch, the list is endless.
Some of our traditional leaders are MPs of the very ruling party that is not taking their issues seriously. Kings and Queens should not belong to a political party. Politicians believe once they have captured the king or queen of a nation or area, they have captured the voters who are subjects of that traditional leader.
The campaign to have King Dalindyebo released has exposed the ruling party for being obsessed with western norms, values and leadership models and posed questions about how seriously they view the people of the Eastern Cape. The local leadership is busy bickering over positions that will give them access to municipal resources. Someone accused of embezzling money meant to bury uTata uMandela is said to have passed judgment on the release King Dalindyebo campaign that it “is a fight against justice”.
Our people must continue to support through public protests the campaign to release the king of AbaThembu. The choice is with the people. They must take back their power by booting out uncaring leaders.
Chris Swepu, a member of the Central Committee of Azapo and its provincial Secretary, writes in his personal capacity...

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