King said ‘ukuhlukumeza’ not ‘izinkonkoni’ or ‘izitabane’

2012-01-28 18:59

King Goodwill Zwelithini did not go on a gay bashing tirade in his now notorious address to the Battle of Isandlwana commemoration last Sunday.

Reports of the monarch’s alleged verbal attack on gays, describing all people in same-sex relationships as “rotten”, have caused a massive outcry.

Human rights organisations have called on the monarch to apologise over the comments, while KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize has leapt to his defence, saying the speech was incorrectly translated.

His spokesperson, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, has also slammed the reports, saying the comments were about moral degeneration and sexual abuse and not an attack on gay people.

A recording of the controversial part of the monarch’s address was translated for City Press this week.

It goes: “If you abuse a man being a man, if you abuse a woman being a woman, you are rotten because in our culture it does not exist.”

Zulu historian and former history lecturer at the University of Zululand Professor Jabulani Maphalala, who attended the event, also disputed the newspaper reports.

According to Maphalala, the monarch repeatedly used the term “ukuhlukumeza”, which means to abuse, when referring to the same-sex issue.

He said the monarch did not use any Zulu terms for homosexuals or homosexuality in the speech.

Maphalala said while historically homosexuality had not been something publicly spoken about in Zulu culture, it had been there since time immemorial and was well documented in Zulu oral history.

“There were same sex relations amongst both men and women even then. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals were drafted into the army irrespective of their sexual orientation. I don’t see why “ingonyama” (royal highness) would not speak directly to the issue if he wanted to. Not once did he use any of the historic terms relating to homosexuality like ongqingili, izinkonkoni or izitabane,” he said.

Ndela Ntshangase, lecturer at the School of isiZulu Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said the word “ukuhlukumeza” in the Zulu dictionary speaks to a situation where there is a victim and a victimiser. Even in a Zulu to English dictionary, this term implies a use of force.

Ntshangase said the king used the same term of “ukuhlukumeza” to slam the killing of “witches” and the abuse of people by fake traditional healers.

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