How a tribal king sparked deadly violence in South Africa

BLACKEAGLE

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How a tribal king sparked deadly violence in South Africa
By Ishaan Tharoor April 17 at 3:30 AM


Immigrant men armed with machetes make their way onto a Durban, South Africa, street during clashes with police and in search of locals that attacked foreign shop owners in the city center, April 14, 2015 . (AP Photo/Tebogo Letsie)

Over the past week, at least five immigrants have been killed following clashes with xenophobic mobs in the major South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg. Fears of further tensions and violence are growing, with thousands of foreigners seeking shelter at police stations, temporary camps and even a soccer stadium. Others formed machete-wielding vigilante squads, aimed at defending their turf.

South African President Jacob Zuma appealed for a calm in an address to parliament on Thursday.

"The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human right," he said. "No amount of frustration or anger can justify the attacks."

The initial spark for the mayhem this week, which saw mobs of armed men in Durban attack shops owned by foreigners, is said to be comments made two weeks ago by the Zulu king. Goodwill Zwelithini, whose role is largely symbolic, said at a gathering that foreign migrants in the country were taking South African jobs and that they should "pack their belongings and go."

That fanned the flames in Durban, where Zulus comprise the largest ethnic group, and led to the worst scenes of unrest since January, when looters burned down foreign-owned stores and clashes led to four deaths. In 2008, post-apartheid South Africa saw its worst bout of violence, when anti-immigrant hysteria led to the deaths of more than 60 people, mostly African migrants.


Over the past week, at least five immigrants have been killed following clashes with xenophobic mobs in the major South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg.

April 17, 2015 An African immigrant runs as a police officer holds a gun to disperse them in Johannesburg. South African police fired rubber bullets and a stun grenade on Friday to disperse a gang of African immigrants who had armed themselves with machetes in a run-down district of east Johannesburg. South Africa has been hit by a wave of violence against African and other immigrants in the last two weeks. The foreigners have complained about a lack of protection and some have started to arm themselves. Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters


The grim scenes of what amounted pogroms on the streets cast a permanent shadow on the narrative of multi-ethnic and racial harmony associated with Nelson Mandela's "rainbow" nation.

Since then, the problems that fueled that violence have remained, and some would say festered. The country's official jobless rate is at a staggering 25 percent, though experts suggest the real figure is higher. In this climate, foreigners turn into scapegoats.

Estimates vary about the size of South Africa's foreign population, ranging from 2 million to 5 million people in a country of 53 million. They come largely from other countries in the continent -- including nearby Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania as well as Ethiopia, Nigeria and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, including many asylum seekers who came in search of sanctuary in South Africa, have also been attacked.

Critics have accused Zuma's government of being slow to respond to the rising xenophobia, incitement and mob attacks on migrants in the country's cities. They also pointed the finger at the Zulu king for his rhetoric.

"Reckless and inflammatory public statements, such as those made by Zwelithini prior to the Durban violence, should be unambiguously condemned," said a statement from Human Rights Watch. "And those who cross the line into direct incitement to violence against migrants should be prosecuted."

There's a possibility Zwelithini will face hate speech charges.

Xenophobia in multi-racial South Africa is a complex problem, layered over with the country's history of apartheid as well as its peculiar relationship with the rest of the African continent. There are genuine frustrations over the scale of illegal immigration to the country. (A fascinating, in-depth interactive by Al Jazeera goes deeper here.)

And there are many who actively oppose it in the country. The hashtag #xenophobia trended in the country, carrying with it appropriate messages of shame and anger with the conduct of the mobs.

On Thursday, a march of thousands of protesters moved through Durban's streets in solidarity with the city's foreigners, chanting "A United Africa" and "Down with Xenophobia."

How a tribal king sparked deadly violence in South Africa - The Washington Post
 

Redheart

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Since the "Zulu King" has blood on his hands will the justice system let him get away with the murders committed?

It's ironic that a two decades back the enemy of the South Africans were White South Africans. Today it's immigrants from other nations. Why would immigrants take the jobs of South Africans? Because the natives were not willing to work in the first place. Why? Because they are lazy.

Zuma slams lazy South Africans | The Citizen
President Jacob Zuma yesterday deviated from his prepared speech and lambasted South Africans, saying they are too lazy.

In October last year, speaking at the commemoration of Black Wednesday and 20 years of media freedom in South Africa, he said: “Our people are waiting for government. Our people are not used to standing up and doing things. These ones [foreigners] are not expecting any government to do anything, so they get here, see opportunities and exploit them.”
 

vegito12

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So it looks like foreign people should not come to this country or the ones there should leave since the local people believe they are taking their jobs and angry about it as well. I think some people may be feeling that they are not given the jobs that could help them survive and seeing the foreign people get it angers them. So it looks like the foreign people will not survive if they stay,as the government has not done enough to protect them and mob violence as occured as a result of this.
 

tasha

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It is a frightening situation that seems to have calmed down now but one stupid comment from a King who lives away from everyone had no place to make comments in the first place. It is shocking!!
 

Redheart

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Why didn't they have that "king" arrested? Considering the fact that many people lost their lives and he's the one who incited the violence if the South African government couldn't do anything they should have handed him over to the ICC. The Nigerian authorities said that option [of referring the matter to the ICC + the Zulu King] was on the table.
 

tasha

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Apparently what he said was taken out of context and he did go and make another speech to apologise and explain what he meant but by then it is too late obviously and the king should have no place to say anything about anyone as he does not rule the country.
 

Redheart

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Regardless of whether what he said was taken out of context or not, it doesn't alter the fact that a number of people were robbed of their lives. When someone is dead, an apology doesn't suffice whether you didn't mean for that to happen. A life for a life or life imprisonment that's how these things get balanced.

Haul him off to the ICC [even though that court is useless] lock him up for 60 years and other leaders/tribal kings will learn to choose the words they speak more carefully.
 

tasha

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They have no on and off button for what they do and they would kill their own people if it meant that something has disrupted their plan. Government will never put a king in jail and if you look at the president too, corruption is making him a very rich man and yet he is still the president. The country needs a strong leader to come in and put the leaders of their own communities in their place so that the country can be run like real world leaders run it. Excluding the wars they get involved in.
 

DancingLady

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How sad that they do not stop to think about the plight of the people they wish to expel from their country. This king is absolutely wrong to incite violence. People rarely migrate to other countries without a strong push like being unsafe in their homeland or extreme poverty and lack of opportunity. Sometimes there are challenges as a result of accepting migrants and refugees, but violence is not the answer. They need to condemn these acts and speeches loudly and call for peaceful discussion to find a solution that benefits everyone as much as possible.
 

tasha

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The ignorance is a part of the way the country is run now and it would be great if the president could step in stop the Zulu king from having anything to say at all.
 

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