Zwelithini remarks problematic but not hate speech: SAHRC

INCITING HATRED?: Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini. PICTURE: DOC

Comments made by Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini in 2015 about foreign nationals did not amount to hate speech, the South African Human Rights Commission has on Friday found.

Early last year Zwelithini allegedly made remarks about foreign nationals competing with locals for limited economic opportunities in the country during a speech in Pongola.

The commission on Friday however noted that while Zwelithini’s comments were not hate speech they could be construed as “hurtful and harmful.”

According to Commission Chairperson Lawrence Mushwana, a transcript of the Kings speech was obtained and there after taken to an expert for analysis.

The expert said Zwelithini did not compare foreign national to lice and fleas as linguistically such a comparison in the Zulu language was not possible.

However the Commissioner Mushwana called some of Zwelithini’s comments “problematic.”

“King Zwelinthini suggested that migrants were here to steal jobs and they were criminals that had left their countries of origin with questionable motives and further identified the presence of migrants as one of the social ills that needed to be dealt with,” said Mushwana.

However Mushwana went on to add that “the linguistic expert found King Zwelinthini comments about lice and fleas were about problems in society and not migrants”.

Following Zwelithini’s 2015 remarks there was an outbreak of attacks on foreign nationals in KZN leaving at least seven people dead and more than 2000 people including women and children displaced.

The Commission on Friday further found there was “no causal link between King Zwelinthini’s migrant comments and the xenophobic attacks that left seven people dead,” according to the former Public Protector Mushwana.

Following criticism of his remarks Zwelithini lashed out at the media for allegedly misinterpreting his comments adding that the media should be probed for inciting violence by misrepresenting his speech.

Mushwana on Friday said “the Commission recommends that King Zwelinthini should take his complaint against the media to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) or the Press Ombudsman if he wishes to.”

The Commission further recommended that Zwelithini should meet with ambassadors from countries affected by xenophobic violence and should also develop and sign a peace accord with affected countries.

Commission Chairperson added that anyone wishing to appeal the findings needed to approach the Equality Court.

The Commissioner also apologised for the amount of time took before releasing the report.

-Siphiwe Mchunu