Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini has again failed to take responsibility for his statement, which many believe might have instigated xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in some parts of the country.
Instead, Zwelithini, who was addressing an Imbizo attended by thousands of his followers, traditional leaders, national and provincial government leaders at the Moses Mabhida stadium in KwaZulu Natal on Monday, blamed a third force and the media for the increasing number of xenophobic attacks in the country.
Commentators have attributed the latest spate of xenophobic violence to Zwelithini’s remarks he made last month that foreigners should leave the country and that they were “lice”. Since he made the statement, which have been cited by several of those involved in the attacks over the past few weeks, seven people have been killed and over a thousand foreign nationals displaced.
President Jacob Zuma was forced to cancel his trip to the Africa-Asia Business Forum in Jakarta, to attend to ongoing attacks on foreign nationals. His deputy Cyril Ramaphosa will attend the event on his behalf and he is expected to try and assure leaders at the summit that the government has the xenophobic violence under control. The latest xenophobic incidents have created serious tension between South Africa and other countries within the continent, with some threatening to boycott South African goods and threats against business operating in the rest of the continent have been reported.
Zwelithini insisted during the Imbizo on Monday that his statements were taken out of context by the media. “The many people who were listening to me have not gone and killed anybody. Most things said about me are not true. If it was true I said people must kill each other, the whole country would be reduced to ashes,” said Zwelithini. While he welcomed the investigation by the Human Rights Commission against him, he said the role of the media [in instigating xenophobic violence] should be looked at.
“I would like the Human Rights Commission to be given enough time to do its investigation. I understand its intervention. It must do a fact-finding [mission]. The commission must also check the role played by the media. What I see in newspapers is that people are fed [lies]. I still challenge people to come with the full speech I made. It is important to know how this started,” said Zwelithini.
Zwelithini said it was wrong for South Africans to kill their fellow African brothers.
Using the zulu name
“I did not call the Imbizo for people who are at the center of the xenophobic violence, but against those who are doing this in the Zulu name. The government agrees with me that there is a third force and we need to fight against it. The people are using Zulu and its monarch.
“The people who are doing this have one thing in mind … they want Africans to fight each other. No one should kill. Lets show them we know how to behave. When we see people violate the rule of law, lets act against those. We are a nation that likes peace. Some people think they are judges. Peace must be first and foremost,” said Zwelithini.
Political commentators Nomboniso Gasa and Shadrack Gutto said Zwelithini has missed the opportunity to own up to his statements and apologise to the nation.
Said Gasa: “Its important that he called for calm and peace [during his address on Monday]. But that does not go far enough. People would have liked the king to have said I humble myself on what I said. As long as he does not take responsibility, [the matter would not be resolved],” said Gasa.
Gutto said Zwelithini should have used his Imbizo to apologise to the nation. “He should have apologised and said he want South Africans to move away from xenophobic attacks.”