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 report read.When questioned on Zwelithini’s role in the reference group’s report, Pillay said that repeated efforts were made to meet with the king."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.