Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - If things were to go King Goodwill Zwelithini’s way, alleged rapists would be castrated using a knife, but gender-based violence activists have warned against this kind of punishment, saying its would be a breach of law and human rights.

Addressing hundreds of his subjects during Umkhosi weLembe (formerly known as Shaka’s Day) in KwaDukuza, North Coast, on Tuesday, the king said rapists should have their manhood chopped off.

Speaking in Zulu, the king said maybe it would be better if once a man was found to have raped, he should be handed to “men like us” to cut off his manhood.

“This would end this thing (rape),” said the king, adding that “this should be done in a way that would show the world that the Zulu nation does not tolerate this shame.”

Attempts to get the king’s spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, to clarify the statement failed as he did not answer his phone.

Among those at the event were former IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and a number of provincial cabinet members.

Zwelithini said it was disturbing that South Africa had highest rate of rape in the world.

“Information shows that 41% of people raped in the country are children, and of these crimes only 4% are prosecuted.

“Why such a small percentage? This means that people are not being prosecuted. This means there is something wrong somewhere in our country or in the leadership,” he said. He added that suspected rapists should not be killed, but should be sent to the hospital to get treatment for their wounded genitals.

“Since we do circumcision, this time we have to go beyond (in cutting). We should do this as part of honouring King Shaka who made the laws, the nation and respect. We should restore respect,” he said.

In reaction on Wednesday, Sonke Gender Justice’s community education and mobilisation unit manager Nonhlanhla Skosana said although it was clear that leaders were concerned about escalating rape incidents and the high rate of femicide, they needed to be “very sensitive”.

“They should be aligned to our constitution as we need to function under the human rights framework.

“So injuring people or taking violent action against perpetrators would never solve the issue,” said Skosana.

“If you read the Sexual Offence’s Act, even objects are also used, and by law that is classified as rape.

“As much we understand that the leaders are concerned, and really want to take action, those actions are supposed to be responsible actions.”

Sibongile Mthembu, the director of Wise Collective, a non-governmental organisation dealing with sexual offences at workplaces, said the king’s call might “sound nice”, but it was a breach of human rights.

“I don’t think that would be feasible in the country because that would take us back.

“It might be a quick solution, but it won’t work because our constitution does not allow it as we have to exercise ubuntu,” she said.

She added that the society needed to find ways to help people to change.

“We still have prisons that have not been working properly as people are not getting sentences that are harsh enough to make sure that they don’t continue with their wrongs.

“Before we go to extremes, we should start with things that will work,” said Mthembu.

Political Bureau