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Failure to address king’s comments on foreign nationals disappointing

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The Hate Crimes Working Group is disappointed by the decision of Parliament’s ad hoc joint committee on probing violence against foreign nationals not to address King Goodwill Zwelithini regarding his comments earlier this year about foreign nationals.

In the wake of another surge of xenophobic violence earlier this year‚ Parliament convened the committee‚ which sat again on Thursday.

In March of this year‚ the king was recorded saying that foreigners “must take their bags and go where they’ve come from”.

Many have viewed these comments as a potential cause of the last surge of xenophobic violence. But on Thursday the committee dismissed the suggestion of speaking with the king about his utterances.

Committee chairwoman‚ Ruth Mbengo‚ told the committee that “only the media thinks it started with the king”.

The king has argued that his comments were taken out of context and has refused to apologise or provide an explanation.

“People in leadership positions‚ regardless of who they are‚ must be accountable. The shielding of leaders by our government must end‚” said Lesego Tlhwale‚ advocacy officer at the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force‚ a member of the Hate Crimes Working Group.

Anthony Waldhausen‚ director of the Gay & Lesbian Network‚ agreed‚ saying that‚ “Our oversight institutions‚ including Parliament‚ should not be seen to be creating a culture of impunity. Comments and actions that can be interpreted by the general public as prejudiced must be addressed‚ regardless of their source.”

“The South African Human Rights Commission is in the process of investigating a number of complaints of hate speech against the king. This clearly shows that it is not only the media that thinks the king’s words could have been a catalyst for the subsequent wave of xenophobic violence‚” said Marlise Richter‚ policy development and advocacy specialist at Sonke Gender Justice.

“Influential figures must use their power and platforms to build the respect and tolerance necessary for our democracy‚” said Matthew Clayton‚ secretary of the Hate Crimes Working Group and Research‚ advocacy and policy coordinator of the Triangle Project.

“We strongly support ANC (African National Congress) MP Zephroma Dlamini-Dubazana’s suggestion that the ad hoc committee visit the king‚ to engage in a dialogue about what led to his statements‚ and their potential unintended impact.

“It cannot be disrespectful to do so if MPs are democratically elected political leaders of the South African people.

“We also support the suggestion that other chiefs and leaders be similarly engaged‚” said Sanja Bornman‚ chairperson of the Hate Crimes Working Group and attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre.

The Hate Crimes Working Group is a civil society grouping whose members work closely with government and civil society‚ including religious and traditional leaders‚ to advocate for hate crimes legislation.

-RDM News Wire