Ombudsman dismisses complaint about paper not using King Goodwill Zwelithini's title

2018-10-24 12:38
King Goodwill Zwelithini. (Gallo Images)

King Goodwill Zwelithini. (Gallo Images)

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A complaint to the Press Ombudsman that Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini's proper title was not used every time he was mentioned in a Daily Dispatch story, has been dismissed.

In the complaint, "Tristan Gouws" complained that in the story, Zwelithini's name was mentioned seven times without his "title, status or surname" being used.

It is not clear from the complaint who Gouws is or if he is connected to the royal household in any way. News24 understands that it is not uncommon for people to complain to the ombudsman and other forums about the usage of royal titles without being connected to the monarch in question.

The complaint was about a story run by the Daily Dispatch on September 17, headlined: "Zwelithini chosen to enrobe E Cape king". The paper reported that Zwelithini was asked to officially enrobe Western Mpondoland King Ndamase Ndlovuyezwe Ndamase at his coronation in October.

According to the Press Ombudsman's ruling, the Daily Dispatch's internal ombud, Kariem Hassan, said it was the paper's style to only use a person's title once. Thereafter, the paper would use the person's surname, not as a sign of disrespect, "but rather to have a fluid copy flow which is not cluttered by too many honorifics".

"It is the norm with all media and it does not flout the press code at all," said Hassan.

A sign of disrespect

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief dismissed the complaint and said: "The practice to mention somebody's title only when that person is first mentioned in a story is an accepted journalistic practice, both in this country and internationally – irrespective of any kind of 'cultural demand' to the contrary. Nowhere is it a sign of disrespect, as it is done solely for practical purposes.

"In fact, I have done precisely the same during my journalistic career, including my findings as ombud."

But a spokesperson for the King, Prince Thulani Zulu told News24 that the ombudsman had no right to tell newspapers that this practice was allowed.

"We do not condone addressing the king by his surname. We take it as a sign of disrespect."

Read: KZN traditional leaders to head to court over 'Zulu land'

He said the ombudsman should have consulted with Zwelithini before making its ruling.

"Newspapers don't respect our culture. The ombudsman can't grant permission to people to disrespect the king. That is defamation of character. You can't grant permission to disrespect someone else's culture. They must find out from us as the Zulu nation (how the king should be addressed)."

Prince of Wales is never 'Charles'

He said the fact that Zwelithini's title was used at the beginning of the article in question made no difference.

"They should say, 'the King' instead of 'Zwelithini'," he said.

It is not an uncommon complaint among royals.

Use of the title "chief" instead of "prince" has irked IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi on several occasions. In 2013, he complained to the ombudsman because the Sowetan referred to him as "chief". He reportedly said, "My title is 'prince'. While it is disrespectful not to use my correct title, the shorthand journalism may necessitate referring to me simply by name without using a title, although I doubt any respectable newspaper would refer to the Prince of Wales as simply, 'Charles'."

He added that the paper was "free to use the Zulu title of 'Inkosi'".

According to The Sowetan, even President Cyril Ramaphosa was not spared when he referred to IFP leader Buthelezi as "chief" instead of "prince". This was reportedly at a briefing during which Ramaphosa reported back on a meeting he held with Buthelezi and Zwelithini.

Also read: Ramaphosa tells Zulu King Zwelithini that land in Ingonyama Trust is safe

The IFP wrote to Ramaphosa to complain, and said the title of "chief" was a colonial one.

Read more on:    king goodwill zwelithini  |  durban  |  press ombudsman  |  media  |  culture

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