Cape Town – King Goodwill Zwelithini is reportedly set to visit Zimbabwe, with activists in Bulawayo saying he was welcome, despite xenophobic attacks in South Africa early this year that were seen as having been “instigated” by him, a report says.
Zwelithini is still under investigation by the SA Human Rights Commission for comments he made during a gathering in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, in March that “foreigners must pack their bags and go home”.
A spate of xenophobic violence erupted in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in April that left at least seven people dead and thousands displaced.
Zwelithini later lambasted the media for “choosing to deliberately distort what was an innocent outcry against crime and destruction of property”.
A recording of the speech on eNCA’s website revealed that Zwelithini said: “I would like for the government to help us… We must deal with our own lice… Let us take out the ants and leave them in the sun. We ask that all immigrants take their bags and go back to where they came from.”
The attacks saw the Zimbabwean government repatriating around 1 000 nationals.
Zwelithini is set to visit Gwanda, Matabeleland South’s provincial capital, at the end of August after a South African-based Zimbabwean businessman invited him for a wedding ceremony, the New Zimbabwe.com reported.
The event will also coincide with the opening of a new Brethren in Christ church building in the mining town, the report said.
Activists in Bulawayo said Zwelithini was welcome.
“What made those people leave their country for South Africa in the first place? It had nothing to do with King Goodwill Zwelithini,” Mbuso Fuzwayo, an activist from the group Ibhetshu LikaZulu, was quoted as saying.
Another activist, Dumisani Mpofu, said Zwelithini owed no-one an apology, saying it was clear that African governments were failing and “must solve their problems”.
This comes as many Zimbabweans continue to cross the border into South Africa for what they term “greener pastures”, as the country reels under economic hardships that have seen thousands lose their jobs in the past few weeks.
Many blame the country’s economic woes on President Robert Mugabe‘s “gross misrule” of the past 35 years.