Report could clear Zulu king over 'xenophobia remarks'

23 August 2015 - 02:03 By NATHI OLIFANT

King Goodwill Zwelithini is likely to face no censure for his controversial remarks on foreign migrants that allegedly sparked a deadly wave of attacks earlier this year. The comments, made at a moral regeneration campaign in Pongola, drew widespread condemnation after it was reported that the king told his followers: "When foreigners look at them [South Africans], 'let's go and eat the inheritance of the stupid people.' As I speak, you find their unsightly goods hanging all over our shops, they dirty our streets."This week, however, the Human Rights Commission tasked with investigating charges of hate speech against the king, appeared to have run into a dead-end.According to a highly placed commission insider, the report will exonerate the Zulu monarch after pressure from various groups, including the royal household.story_article_left1"The outcome of the probe will exonerate the king. The probe was canned in July after we failed to meet the June deadline to release the outcome. Part of that was that many of the refugees were still in camps," said the source, who was part of the investigation.The source said the commission would announce that the investigation could not be completed due to a "lack of evidence".The king's representatives told the commission that their monarch's life had been placed in limbo since the investigation was launched. Moreover, they complained, his public image was being tainted locally and abroad.The commission source said at a meeting with the king's representatives on May 19, the king's advisers had refused to co-operate, and asked how the commission had built its case on the basis of evidence it did not have."The king's people had put a lot of pressure demanding the outcome of the investigation because 'His Majesty's reputation had taken a knock'.""Before meeting with the king's representatives, the commissioners - including chair Advocate [Lawrence] Mushwana - had met with the complainants, who had all said they believed the king had sparked the attack. The commission had requested representation from the king, including the recording of his speech in March."The king's representatives had argued that as respondents they were not the ones to supply evidence," he said.The source said the commission eventually got hold of a taped copy of the controversial speech, but could not agree on the correct interpretation of the king's words."You will remember that the commission had promised to make known its findings in June, but that did not happen as pressure mounted from the king's side," he said.story_article_right2Although the investigators met with members of the king's household, he was never personally interviewed. Instead, he was sent a questionnaire to complete.Seven people - four South Africans and three foreign nationals - died during the attacks. Hundreds were displaced.Ethiopian national Alex Marcus, whose brother Tesema died of burn wounds after they were both set alight in their shop container, was outraged at the investigation being canned."I'm already sleeping badly due to that experience. Where's the justice for us? I reported this as well to the human rights [commission] and the police but I never heard any response. My family wants me back in Ethiopia, but this is where we all make a living," said Marcus, complaining that there was no justice for ordinary people.Zouberi Ryegure, who represents the Burundian community in Durban - which complained to the commission - said they had last heard from the commission when they submitted their complaints and had interviews with the commission. He said he would not be surprised if the probe was dropped."The king is a powerful person. But what you are saying angers me because the people who attacked us clearly said they were acting on the king's call. We thought some urgent action would be taken, but we have been asking each other what happened and we were thinking of writing back to them," he said.The commission's provincial manager, Tanuja Mu noo, declined to comment, saying that the matter was being handled by the national office.Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena denied the king would not be held to account."That's rubbish and far from the truth. On the contrary, everything is on course, and all evidence and submissions [have been] gathered, translations made and analysed where needed."I'm not sure what pressures you are talking about ... because as far as we know the king called for and encouraged the commission to do its work and get to the bottom of this issue. We should be ready to pronounce on the preliminary findings very soon," said Mangena.He confirmed that they had never met the king but had sent him a questionnaire to which he replied.story_article_left3"There's nothing out of the ordinary here. We choose which method to use, be it a one-on-one, written correspondence or calling that person. Here we chose to send questions and we did that twice," he said.Royal spokesman Prince Thulani Zulu said they were not aware of the progress of the commission's investigation. However, he acknowledged they had sent a delegation to meet with the commission."I don't know; also the problem I have is that the people we sent to liaise with the commission have never returned to give us feedback," said Zulu.The king's comments in March were widely reported.Speaking in Zulu, he chastised South Africans for being lazy and went on to say: "When foreigners look at them [South Africans], 'let's go and eat the inheritance of the stupid people.' As I speak, you find their unsightly goods hanging all over our shops, they dirty our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which, there are foreigners everywhere. I know it is hard for other politicians to challenge this, because they are after their votes every five years. Please forgive me but this is my responsibility, I must talk ..."As king of the Zulu nation, which is respected worldwide because of the role it played in fighting for freedom, I will not keep quiet when our country is led by people who have no opinion. It is time to say something."I ask our government to help us fix our own problems, let us scratch our fleas and rid ourselves of the fleas. Let us take our [blankets] and put them in the sun so that fleas could come out themselves. We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back."..

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