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By Ben Maclennan
The king of the abaThembu, facing a 15-year jail sentence for a string of violent crimes, has hit on a novel solution to his legal woes: he plans to form an independent state.
The announcement was made yesterday in a statement issued by his representative, lawyer Votani Majola.
It followed an earlier ultimatum that President Jacob Zuma publicly apologise to the abaThembu tribe for the "humiliation" of the king, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, in court.
The Justice for King Dalindyebo Campaign, which Majola heads, had also demanded that all charges against the king be scrapped and that the government pay R80 billion in compensation.
Dalindeybo was sentenced to jail by an Mthatha judge earlier this month for offences including culpable homicide, kidnapping, arson and assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm.
He is on bail pending appeal.
In the statement, Majola said the abaThembu would "withdraw from the South African government" on January 6 to form an independent state.
This was an "executive decision" by the king.
"The official Withdrawal Notice will be delivered to the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa in Cape Town on the sixth of January 2010 at 12am by the delegation of AbaThembu to be led by His Majesty King Dalindyebo," he said.
This would be followed by talks on transitional arrangements which it was anticipated that the government would finance. Zuma had been notified, Majola said.
He said the state of Thembuland would include at least KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape, and parts of the Free State and Gauteng. The task team said in a statement released last week that it had information that suggested that the abaThembu were the largest tribe in South Africa with estimated members "in excess of ten million or so".
"There is also information that suggests that about 60 percent of the land in South Africa legitimately belongs to abaThembu," it said.
"Johannesburg and Durban are among the cities that are built on our land. We have no reason to disbelieve this information."
It said Dalindyebo's trial was in fact political persecution, driven by the African National Congress and aimed at toppling the king and installing a "puppet leader".
The criminal charges against Dalindyebo stemmed from violence against his subjects in the Tyhalara area in the early 1990s, during which a woman and children were kidnapped, homes burned and youths assaulted, of whom one died.
As head of the abaThembu, Dalindyebo is Nelson Mandela's tribal chief.
He is a former Umkhonto we Sizwe operative.