KZN xenophobia: Minister downplays King's comments

Minister Nathi Nhleko says King Goodwill Zwelithini’s remarks have been misinterpreted.

FILE: Police are trying to disperse a large crowd of around 2,000 people following a standoff between foreign shop owners and locals in Durban on 14 April 2015. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Police Minister Nathi Nhleko has downplayed claims Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's recent comments about foreigners sparked the clashes between locals and foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Six people, including a 14-year-old boy, have lost their lives in a wave of attacks on foreign nationals in several parts of KZN including KwaMashu and Umlazi over the past two weeks.

The latest flare-up of xenophobic violence in the province saw violent clashes in the city's CBD on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at an event in Pongola last month, Zwelithini was heard saying that foreign nationals must go back to their home countries.

Transcribed quote:

"As I speak to you, you find there are unsightly goods hanging all over our shops. They dirty our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which. They are all blocked by foreigners."

The king has since accused the media of distorting his comments.

Nhleko says Zwelithini's remarks have been misinterpreted.

"If you're in the country illegally, effectively you need to be deported. That's essentially the long and short of what the king said. I then don't understand why the whole thing was turned around."

Twice in the past few weeks the Zulu monarch has been quoted saying that foreigners should leave South Africa as they were causing problems in the country.

But the KZN Community Safety Department said the call was never meant to incite violence.

WATCH: Xenophobic violence rocks Durban CBD


The police minister says attacks on foreigners are a reflection of a national problem which requires a long-term solution.

Government says what began as a labour dispute at a supermarket in Durban has now snowballed into rampant attacks on immigrants.

Nhleko says community outreach programmes aimed at educating people is one way of addressing anti-foreigner sentiments in that province.

He says it's inhumane to hate another on the basis of where that person comes from.

In January, foreign-owned shops were looted in Soweto which was reminiscent of the xenophobic attacks that spread across the country in 2008.