London: Nelson Mandela's nephew, who also serves as king of the Thembu clan, began a 12-year prison sentence for maintaining a "reign of terror" over his people in South Africa.
King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, whose prison term began on Thursday, was found guilty of kidnapping, assault and arson. After 27 years on the throne, he is the first of South Africa's 10 recognised kings to go to jail.
King Dalindyebo's offence took place about two decades ago when he summoned one of his subjects to appear before his traditional court.
When the man failed to present himself, King Dalindyebo responded in what he said was a traditional fashion. He kidnapped one of the absconder's female relations along with six of her children, burnt down their home and personally assaulted four youths, one of whom later died.
King Dalindyebo, 51, mounted a series of appeals against his conviction, arguing that his actions amounted to customary justice.
But the Supreme Court of Appeal condemned his "deplorable" behaviour, adding: "The victims of his reign of terror were the vulnerable rural poor, who were dependent upon him. Our constitution does not countenance such behaviour. We are a constitutional democracy in which everyone is accountable and where the most vulnerable are entitled to protection".
During his legal battle, King Dalindyebo became increasingly unpopular among his 700,000 subjects. In July 2014, a group of Thembu chiefs denounced him as an "evil king" in a letter to President Jacob Zuma.
When his last appeal failed, King Dalindyebo did not wait to be arrested. He turned up at the prison gates in the eastern city of Mthatha.
The king is a nephew of Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013. Mandela was a scion of the royal family of the Thembu clan. His father, Henry, served as a counsellor at the court of the Thembu king in the 1930s.
King Dalindyebo inherited the throne from his father, Sabata, in 1989. Whether he will continue to reign from inside his prison cell is unclear. Thembu elders will decide his fate - but without the benefit of a precedent to guide them.