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The Eastern Cape premier’s office says abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo has decided against attending the funeral of amaXhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu to avoid causing “unnecessary distraction during this difficult moment” for the Xhosa nation.

On Thursday, Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha confirmed there were “engagements between government and King Zwelibanzi on this matter in line with Section 44 of the Correctional Services Act”.

Sicwetsha said it was the king’s decision not to attend the funeral proceedings.

This after the ANC’s Amathole regional secretary Thembalethu Ntutu called on the department of correctional services to grant Dalindyebo compassionate leave to attend the funeral, in a statement on Monday.

Sigcawu will be laid to rest during an official Category 1 funeral in Nqadu.

“It was the decision of King Zwelibanzi that he will not be attending the funeral service for King Zwelonke because his attendance of the funeral service might cause unnecessary distraction during this difficult moment for amaXhosa and the people of South Africa at large,” Sicwetsha said in a statement.

“Government respects the decision of King Zwelibanzi and we call on all the people of the province to also respect the decision of the King of abaThembu on this specific matter.”

Dalindyebo is serving a 12-year sentence.

In 2009, the Eastern Cape High Court sentenced him to 15 years in jail for seven counts of kidnapping, three of assault, three of arson, and one each of defeating the ends of justice, culpable homicide, and defeating the ends of justice.

The Supreme Court of Appeal shaved off three years of his sentence in 2015, which he started serving in December that year.

Many, including several traditional leaders, have called for Dalindyebo’s release and a presidential pardon.

Earlier this year, a report was drawn up by former justice minister Michael Masutha regarding a presidential pardon and given to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ntutu added, in his statement, that Dalindyebo’s fate remained “in limbo” as there had been “no response to the request he made for a presidential pardon”.

“As the ANC in Amathole, we are calling for the president to respond to the request which has been with the Office of the President for quite some time.”

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