King Goodwill Zwelithini has decried levels of rape in KwaZulu-Natal and the country.
He has called on people to stand up and report the crime to the authorities.
A recent spate of attacks against the elderly, women and children were not a good reflection on the nation, Zwelithini said in his opening address in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature on Tuesday.
"This makes me feel embarrassed to be called the king of the people who commit such disgraceful acts."
He said only united action, involving all sectors of the community, would bring an end to rapes, abuse and murder.
"As a society we can prevent this, since we know the perpetrators.
"To all communities where such distasteful incidents happen, I urge you to exonerate yourselves and hand these thugs to the police."
The opening was attended by, among others, MPLs and former premier and Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele.
Zwelithini said the authorities needed to take drastic action about unemployment in the province.
"The truth is that as a province we are sitting on top of a volcano that could erupt at any time," he said.
He also said there was a need for the equitable sharing of resources and benefits, especially when it came to mining.
Tension between mines and communities was caused by an absence of plans to ensure communities benefited from the mines in their areas.
Zwelithini said he would call for a KwaZulu-Natal mining dialogue to prevent future tensions. The opening of the legislature marks the official start of government activities in the province.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize will deliver his state of the province address on Thursday. – Sapa