21 October 2006

Trio beaten and stripped naked by angry mob-Africa

Tembu king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo assaulted three of his subjects with a sjambok to stop them from being beaten to death by an angry mob.

The Xhosa monarch, a relative and clan nephew of Nelson Mandela, testified on Tuesday at the Mthatha High Court in the Eastern Cape, where he faces 26 charges including murder, kidnapping, arson and extortion.

His account of events differed dramatically from those described by 32 state witnesses over the past three months.

'The people did not like my suggestion'
The state has alleged that the king participated in the savage beating of three men suspected of being criminals; ordered the fatal beating of a fourth subject, an 18-year-old youth; torched three homesteads of "disobedient" residents who refused to pay fines; kidnapped a woman and her six children; and ordered his victims not to report anything to the police.

But according to Dalindyebo, a mob of residents suspected the trio not only of breaking into a house and gang-raping a woman, but of kissing the wife of a wheelchair-bound villager.

While the burglary and rape would have to be dealt with by the police, the kissing was what "they wanted to report".

Dalindyebo, 41, testified that on January 23 1996 he arrived home (his palace, the Great Place) to find a large group of residents waiting for him. After resting and having a meal, the king joined the group and discovered that the men had been stripped naked and beaten, and were lying on the floor.

Their bodies were covered with "many wounds" and their heads were swollen. The angry mob were insisting that more punishment - in the form of beatings with sticks - be dished out. But Dalindyebo suggested that the "young men's parents should be the ones to assault them".

The judge said the king ruled by fear and that
"The people did not like my suggestion. So I came up with the option that the three men should be assaulted by me," he told the court.

"No sane person would have assaulted those men in the condition they were in. I assaulted them with a sjambok."

Judge Sytze Alkema paused the proceedings and asked: "You are a sane person. Why did you assault them?"

Dalindyebo: "It was because the mood of the people who brought them (to the Great Place) was to assault them to death. I assaulted them because I wanted the assaults to cease."

Dalindyebo added that when searching for a place to issue the "light lashings", he saw that the only place where there were no marks or wounds was the buttocks.

But, despite admitting their "condition was very bad", he claimed he did not issue more than three lashings per man.

Also, according to his information, the men - in their 20s and 30s - confessed that their "boss" was Sazisa Wofa (the 18-year-old who was beaten to death soon afterwards).

"Their defence was that it (kissing the married woman) was a childish, irresponsible act of compulsion, because Sazisa was in possession of a firearm and they were scared of him," Dalindyebo said.

The king was scheduled to resume his testimony today, when he was to address the issue of ordering Sazisa to be located and punished "in the same manner as the other three".

Dalindyebo further testified that the three men had been beaten before they were brought to the Great Place and afterwards. He did not know what condition they were in after he assaulted them.

After issuing a few light lashes, he stepped out of the hut with his sjambok and a few minutes later heard screams from inside. He discovered that a member of the mob was busy beating the men with a stick. He ordered the beating to stop, and it did.

"If you could stop it at that stage, why not earlier?" Judge Alkema enquired.

"If I had ordered a stoppage they would have taken away the men by force and killed them.

"When I saw the disrespect afforded me, I thought I had no authority and the crowd did not regard me as a king."

Earlier, when asked why he did not overrule a community decision to evict the residents by burning their homes, Dalindyebo said the perception that a king's word is like "heavenly instruction" was false.

But last week the judge said the king ruled by fear and that his subjects obeyed "slavishly", fearing that their homesteads would be burnt.

State witnesses testified that the king beat them with a sjambok until he grew tired, and then invited anyone from the group to continue the beating.

According to the state, the three were beaten so severely that two were taken away on a tractor while a third was too weak to be moved and spent the night at the Great Place.

Unlike last week, the courtroom was packed as the king told his side of the story on Tuesday.

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