If King Dalindyebo behaves like a commoner...
Thami ka Plaatjie is renowned for being a serial abuser of his otherwise impressive intellectual arsenal. In his article “We jail a king at our peril” (City Press, January 3 2016), he found himself shooting at the pillars of our constitutional democracy.
Desperate to dress up his naked submissions, he wrote that “the matter of abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo exemplifies a constitutional crisis that is borne by the unfinished business of our transition since 1994”.
In this regard, Ka Plaatjie presupposes that had we “finished the business of our transition”, we would have agreed to a legal system that recognised different rights and obligations for different classes of people. Perhaps Ka Plaatjie is suffering from some sort of periodic insomnia that makes him forget the fact that our struggle has always been about the creation of a just society in which all persons are equal before the law.
The Freedom Charter, which Ka Plaatjie spent the better part of his political life cursing as a sellout document, clearly states that all shall be equal before the law. This is not a Roman-Dutch aspiration Ka Plaatjie would want us to believe – it has always been our people’s battle cry; equality before the law.
Ka Plaatjie goes further and places a higher premium on the submission to the Constitutional Court by the now disgraced Dalindyebo that “the court failed to have regard to the fact that the young men it is alleged I assaulted were brought to me in my capacity as a king and the highest judicial authority within the kingdom. The offenders had been arrested by the community, for rape, housebreaking...”
Both Ka Plaatjie and Dalindyebo miss the point. The fact that the men were brought to the king did not justify the subsequent criminal behaviour by the king. What was expected from the king was justice, nothing more.
It is gravely misleading for Ka Plaatjie to suggest that the behaviour of the king was unavoidably in line with the practice of customary law. From time immemorial, traditional leaders have always had a civil way to resolve dispute with and among their subjects. The highest punishment we know of in terms of African customs is banishment, not the sickening criminal tendencies Dalindyebo resorted to.
In Sepedi, there is a popular saying that “mogolo ge a roga monyane ore monyane nroge”, which, loosely translated, means that “when someone of higher or royal authority begins to conduct himself like a commoner, he invites to himself a commoner’s treatment”.
As the Latin phrase goes, “Fiat justitia ruat caelum” – “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” Dalindyebo must serve his sentence to the fullest.
Ramashia is a public servant in the Limpopo provincial government