Zulu king shows little remorse for contributing to xenophobic violence - LHR

Cape Town - Lawyers for Human Rights on Wednesday condemned King Goodwill Zwelithini’s "unwillingness to co-operate" with the group investigating last year’s xenophobic attacks in Durban.

The Special Reference Group (SRG) on Migration and Community Integration was tasked with looking into social cohesion in KwaZulu-Natal following the violent attacks.

The LHR in a statement said the move was not only unfortunate, but "shows the little remorse King Zwelithini has for his words that played a contributing role" to the violence.

Zwelithini reportedly declined to be interviewed by the SRG.

Last year, he faced much criticism for a speech he made in March where he reportedly said that "foreigners must pack their bags and go home" during a moral regeneration event in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The Zulu king, however, lambasted the media at the time for "choosing to deliberately distort what was an innocent outcry against crime and destruction of property".

He countered that he was on record as having said that there was no justification for murder, looting and attacks perpetrated against foreigners, and reiterated that "all those who commit such crimes against anyone, whether foreign or local, should face the full might of the law".

According to the SRG’s report, the realisation of a more socially cohesive society was fundamentally dependent upon how KwaZulu-Natal pursues greater socio-economic equality and promotes mutual acceptance between its diverse communities.

Among the findings by the SRG was that the attacks were a result of deliberate efforts of select individuals, some of whom had interests in the informal trading sector, to drive away competition by foreign-owned businesses.

Baseless rumours, fake multimedia, and exaggerated headlines spread through social media and some traditional media "worsened anxieties throughout the province", the report said.

"[We call] on all parties involved to honour the recommendations in the report in a meaningful way. This report goes a long way in, not only facilitating national debates around continued xenophobic violence, but also contributes immensely to solutions that can be undertaken to combat recurrent xenophobic attacks happening around the country," it said.

"LHR recognises that the causes of xenophobia are complex and cannot be singled out. It is important that, as we grapple with this issue as a nation, robust debates are had and that the conversation remains ongoing."

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