DURBAN – Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini arrived at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Monday morning to address a waiting crowd on xenophobic violence, but members of the his official escort could be heard chanting that foreigners should leave South Africa.
And the crowd of several thousand mostly hostel dwellers, armed with sticks and knobkieries, jeered when delegates from other countries were introduced. There were no foreigners present at the imbizo.
King Zwelithini arrived flanked by KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Senzo Mchunu, and the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Recent anti-foreigner rhetoric by the king has been blamed by many for the spate of xenophobic attacks in which at least seven people have died in the past three weeks. And while the king was expected to seek to quell anti-foreigner sentiment in his speech, members of his amabutho (regiment) could be heard chanting: “Abahambe abahambayo, sizosebenza (those who want to leave can go ahead, we are here to work).”
The amabutho are usually armed with sticks and dressed in traditional attire. On Monday, some were wearing Zulu warrior attire while others were clothed in civilian dress. Thulani Zulu (pictured), head of regiments from Ulundi, said the crowd had come out on Monday to defend King Zwelithini who he said had never said people should attack foreigners.
“Government should deal with the criminals who are carrying out the acts of violence against foreigners. If the King had said people should attack foreigners there would be serious bloodshed,” Zulu said.
Jabu Nzimande from Berea said that while they did not condone the beating and killing of foreigners, they were welcome to leave South Africa. “Government must speak the truth, they must take action against the drug lords who are foreigners,” Nzimande said. “We voted for freedom, but not to be ruled by foreigners. They are selling drugs and destroying our communities.”