Zulu King snubbed xenophobia investigators - former judge
05 April 2016, 13:46
Durban - A special reference group appointed by the
KwaZulu-Natal government was snubbed repeatedly by King Goodwill Zwelithini
while investigating a spate of xenophobic attacks last year.
The king’s apparent unwillingness to meet with the
investigation panel, chaired by retired Judge Navi Pillay, emerged at the
release of a report compiled by the group.
The attacks claimed the lives of several people and left
thousands displaced, with violence against foreign nationals emanating in
KwaZulu-Natal and spreading across the country.
Zwelithini had made a speech in Pongola ahead of the
outbreaks of violence against foreign nationals and his utterances prompted an
investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission.
It had been widely reported that Zwelithini had made
disparaging remarks about foreign nationals, but was exonerated by the HRC.
A key finding of the panel focused on “inflammatory public
statements by individuals in leadership positions" that served as
contributing factors to the prevailing atmosphere of fear throughout
communities in the province.
"The reference group recommends that leaders exercise
greater care with their public remarks. Leaders must consider the potential
ramifications, both intended and unintended, of statements that are
provocative, stereotypical and may be perceived as harmful by any group of
persons or individuals."
"Responsible leaders can play positive and proactive
roles in preventing and mitigating tensions within their communities," the
When questioned on Zwelithini’s role in the reference
group’s report, Pillay said that repeated efforts were made to meet with the
"We visited Pongola where the king spoke and there was
no one that came forward and said they heard the king’s speech and acted upon
it. There were no negative reactions in that area," she said.
"We wished to have an audience with the king and we
finally had a written response from his secretary who said because the HRC was
investigating that issue, he felt that he shouldn’t be interviewed by another
investigation team," Pillay added.
"Even after that was over we still didn’t get an
interaction from the king."
Pillay said that they examined statements made by President
Jacob Zuma, as well as other political leaders.
"We condemn this kind of inflammatory speech because of
the likelihood to incite violence. It spreads harmful stereotypes and
prejudices. If leadership makes statements that are not true and factual they
give rise to harmful perceptions," she said.