During a speech last month, Zwelithini called for the deportation of foreign nationals living in the country, saying it was unacceptable locals were being made to compete with people from other countries for the few economic opportunities available. King Zwelithi said “foreigners must pack their bags and go home”.
His three major complaints and why he wanted foreigners to go were; 1. South African traders in the townships said they could not compete with the prices that foreign-owned businesses were selling their products. 2. Foreigners were involved in crime. 3. Lack of respect shown by foreigners to locals.
Addressing Pongolo community members during a moral regeneration event, Zwelithi accused government of failing to protect locals from the “influx of foreign nationals”. He said: “Most government leaders do not want to speak out on this matter because they are scared of losing votes. As the king of the Zulu nation, I cannot tolerate a situation where we are being led by leaders with no views whatsoever.
“We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries. The fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals. I know you were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries,” he said.
His comments were widely condemned with the SA DA describing it as “highly irresponsible. Particularly given the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he should do the right thing – retract and apologise,”
He didn’t and his spokesman went on record to say the King had nothing to apologise for, that he meant every word he said. “I think the people who’re complaining are misinterpreting his speech. He didn’t say foreigners must be attacked or harassed. The king was talking about foreigners who are here illegally. Some are involved in serious crimes like drug and human trafficking. We don’t need such people in our country so the king is right,” his spokesman said.
After the killing spread across different cities, the king has relented a little and is planning to speak to his people on Monday in an effort to quell the attacks. He’s expected to address the public directly and clarify his statement and ask his people to stop the violence which his words started.