Following the controversial comments by King Goodwill Zwelithini about foreigners in South Africa, we have seen a massive increase in xenophobic violence in some parts of the country. The Zulu King was reported to have said that foreigners must go back to their own countries. Whether or not King Zwelithini’s comments have played a major role in escalating the xenophobic violence, which started in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Isipingo, is debatable. What we do know is that in the stronghold of King Zwelithini, KwaZulu- Natal, there has been a huge spike in xenophobic violence and it has spread to Johannesburg .
We firstly need to put a few things into perspective. What we need to understand is that, King Zwelithini is a Zulu monarch. But we are living in a democratic country, where people ultimately have the power in electing their leadership. Since becoming a constitutional monarch of KZN in 1994, the King’s powers have been limited by the constitution. But despite this, King Zwelithini still remains an influential figure, especially in KZN. So the Zulu King’s opinion still carries a lot of weight in certain parts of the country, which is why we have to accept that it is possible that the King’s comments could have contributed to the recent escalation of xenophobic violence. Although the xenophobic attacks started brewing before the king made his controversial comments, they have since spiralled out of control in KZN. But in saying that, there are also other factors that come into play when talking about the recent spate of xenophobic attacks.
The high unemployment rate has left many jobless South Africans disgruntled and frustrated. Now imagine how it must feel for an unemployed South African, to see a person from another country flourishing, while they are struggling. There is bound to be a bit of anger and resentment. With that in mind, the king’s comments would’ve certainly added fuel to fire.
The anger and frustration of locals, also provides a perfect opportunity for criminals to jump on the bandwagon and use the situation to their advantage. To see violence of this nature, does not convince me that this is the work of ordinary South Africans. This leads me to believe that many of the incidents of “xenophobia” have been orchestrated by opportunistic criminals, who use the xenophobia card, as a means to carry out their illegal deeds such as looting the foreign businesses and harming foreign nationals.
The media also has a habit of painting everybody or people from a certain race group with the same brush, which is totally unfair because criminals exist in every race group. Yes, there are many South Africans that are unhappy with the influx of foreigners entering the country’s borders, but many of those South Africans will not go to the extent of harming another human being. We should not paint everybody with the same brush because in many of these cases, it is the work of opportunistic criminals.
While everybody is entitled to their own opinion, a person in powerful position such as the King, has to watch what they say because in a way, they can influence the way people think and act. In my opinion, King Zwelithini’s comments have further inflamed an already volatile situation. Let’s hope that we can find a viable solution, that will stop the violence and prevent these attacks from happening in the future.