Rights body gives king slap on wrist

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AL­THOUGH Zulu King Good­will Zwelithini’s ut­ter­ances were harm­ful to for­eign na­tion­als, he did not call for violence against mi­grants, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion has found.

Com­mis­sion chair­man Lawrence Mush­wana told a me­dia brief­ing yes­ter­day Zwelithini’s ut­ter­ances, made dur­ing a speech he de­liv­ered at a meet­ing on mo­ral re­gen­er­a­tion in Pon­gola, KwaZu­luNatal in March last year, did not ac­tively in­cite violence, but en­gen­dered dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“From an anal­y­sis of the ut­ter­ances of the re­spon­dent in the tran­scribed ver­sion of his speech, the com­mis­sion is of the view that at no point did the re­spon­dent is­sue a call to take arms or any call for vi­o­lent at­tack against mi­grants,” Mush­wana told re­porters in Johannesburg.

“His ut­ter­ances fall short of in­cite­ment to violence as he did not ac­tively en­cour­age or pres­surise (sic) the au­di­ence into com­mit­ting vi­o­lent acts against mi­grants.”

He said, how­ever, that Zwelithini’s state­ment cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment in which for­eign na­tion­als could be dis­crim­i­nated against by so­ci­ety.

“Telling peo­ple that they’re crim­i­nals and that they’re here to steal the coun­try’s wealth is harm­ful. Such psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tion­ing could ul­ti­mately lead to acts of dis­crim­i­na­tion and fuel a cli­mate which leads to violence against mi­grants.”

In his speech, Zwelithini ac­cused for­eign na­tion­als of mak­ing “streets dirty”. He also called on them to pack their bags and go home.

Mush­wana said a Zulu lan­guage ex­pert who as­sisted the com­mis­sion in its probe, con­cluded that these state­ments did not in­cite violence.

“In the his­tory of the Zulu na­tion, the king can ex­press his views in a blunt and some­times crude way with­out mean­ing to of­fend a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual.

“In re­gard to the re­quest for ‘for­eign na­tion­als and their lug­gage to be sent back home’, the ex­pert found that the ref­er­ence to lug­gage is made on the as­sump­tion that hawk­ers are in South Africa il­le­gally,” said Mush­wana.

The com­plaint against the king was lodged by the African Di­as­pora Fo­rum, Lawyers for Hu­man Rights and other in­di­vid­u­als.

They charged Zwelithini’s state­ment in­cited violence against for­eign na­tion­als and had re­sulted in an erup­tion of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks that be­gan in KwaZulu-Natal last year.

Seven peo­ple were killed and thou­sands dis­placed as violence against for­eign na­tion­als swept through large parts of the coun­try.

Mush­wana said Zwelithini had, dur­ing his speech, also crit­i­cised lo­cals for in­flict­ing violence on for­eign na­tion­als.

“Un­for­tu­nately, this as­pect of the king’s speech was not cov­ered in the me­dia re­ports.”

Zwelithini had ar­gued he was quoted out of con­text through “in­ac­cu­rate reporting”, and the me­dia did not un­der­stand the Zulu lan­guage. He asked the com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the me­dia for its role in “mis­us­ing and abus­ing” the speech he de­liv­ered.

Mush­wana said al­though Zwelithini did not point to spe­cific me­dia re­ports, the com­mis­sion was not the best placed in­sti­tu­tion to in­ves­ti­gate his com­plaint. – ANA

King Good­will Zwelithini

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