Home affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi has condemned recent utterances by Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini calling for the deportation of foreigners from South Africa.
Cde Mohadi said King Zwelithini’s remarks were highly inflammatory and against Sadc protocols.
The Zulu king’s outburst came last week during his speech at a moral regeneration event in Pongola, northern Kwa-Zulu Natal in the presence of Police minister Nathi Nhleko and KwaZulu-Natal community MEC Willies Mchunu.
The Zulu monarch reportedly told the gathering that it was time foreigners were told to return to their countries, accusing them of messing up the country’s towns by hanging their fake clothing brands on the streets.
He also accused the South Africa government of failing to protect citizens from the “influx of foreign nationals” sparking outrage from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and opposition parties, which described his comments as “highly irresponsible.”
Cde Mohadi said the Zulu monarch’s statements were misguided and unfortunate.
“King Zwelithini’s statement is quite unfortunate and uninformed considering that as Sadc we are trying to build a regional bloc. However, it should be noted that people are allowed to work and move from one country to another within the region as enshrined in the Sadc protocols to which South Africa is also a signatory. It is clear that King Zwelithini is not cognisant of the Sadc protocols,” said Cde Mohadi.
“Mind you, he (King Zwelithini) is only a king of a clan for that matter, not South Africa, so he is not the authority. It is however, unfortunate that such a statement is coming from person of his stature and we thought the South African government was going to issue an official statement,” said the minister.
Cde Mohadi said King Zwelithini’s sentiments promoted hatred in a country where xenophobia is rife.
“We are not in Europe and historically it is known that Africans are one people who were just divided by these artificial borders created by colonialists. We also have Zulu descendants in Zimbabwe,” said the minister.
The king’s remarks were made against the backdrop of rising tensions between foreign nationals and locals in the wake of recent xenophobic attacks in the neighbouring country.
The violence began in Soweto, Gauteng, in January and later spread to KwaZulu-Natal, where it has claimed three lives.
A fortnight ago, a Zimbabwean woman who was wrongly accused of killing a young boy, was lynched by an angry mob in a shanty township near South African capital, Pretoria.
The woman was burnt alive while another man, also from Zimbabwe, managed to escape after police intervened. The Zimbabwean pair had been accused of bewitching the boy. A probe later revealed that the boy had been electrocuted.
South Africa’s main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) described King Zwethini’s comments as “highly irresponsible”. “Particularly given the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he should do the right thing — retract and apologise,” said DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme.
The South African Human Rights Commission said it was looking into the matter.
“His utterances, if proven true, would border on xenophobic,” said SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena.
The Zulu monarch has refused to apologise for the remarks.