DA leader Helen Zille has come to the defence of her party’s decision to accept controversial abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo as a member.

Dalindyebo is a self-confessed dagga smoker who is also facing a 15-year jail sentence should his appeal fail against an Mthatha High Court judgment finding him guilty of crimes including arson, culpable homicide and kidnapping.

He joined the DA last week following his numerous attacks on President Jacob Zuma and his administration – at one point saying he would stop smoking dagga the day Zuma stops being corrupt.

In her weekly newsletter SA Today, Zille wrote that no one who joined the party as an ordinary member was subjected to an ideology test or due diligence investigation.

“That huddle only comes if you wish to become a DA public representative. There is a huge difference,” wrote Zille.

Dalindyebo had earlier publicly announced he was joining the DA and invited Zille and her Eastern Cape party leader Athol Trollip to his home.

“We had two choices: to publicly accept him, or publicly reject him. Responding ‘below the radar’ was never an option because the king had spoken openly about intentions,” wrote Zille.

The DA has been working hard to lure voters from rural areas and townships across the country and Dalindyebo, in the Eastern Cape, is seen as a key to attracting that rural vote.

News of Dalindyebo joining the DA was met with criticism. Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said a principled political party would suspend or even expel any member convicted of serious crime.

“But principles are seemingly not the DA’s strong point. Neither is sticking to its own constitution,” wrote De Vos last week. —