Johannesburg - King Goodwill Zwelithini has stirred up a Twitter storm with his remarks that “this so-called democracy” of black people has destroyed the powerful economy built by the apartheid government.
Speaking at his kwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma on Saturday night during a celebration marking his 44 years in power, Zwelithini praised the apartheid regime for building a powerful government with the strongest economy and army on the continent, adding history would judge black people harshly as they had failed to build on the successes of the Afrikaner regime.
On Monday morning he trended on Twitter, with some calling him a sell-out, and others saying he ought to sing the apartheid government’s praises as he was a beneficiary.
“King Zwelithini was for the boers from the start. He is the apartheid beneficiary. He was never here for our freedom,” tweeted Zikho Twantwa as @Miss_Twantwa.
ANC spokesmen Zizi Kodwa and Zweli Mkhize were not available for comment on Monday morning.
In his speech, Zwelithini continued to say black people “loved to use matches” to burn down infrastructure built during apartheid.
Delivering a speech, which ended just after midnight, the king also told hundreds of people packed into a big marquee he felt lucky he was born the same year the National Party came to power.
Most people did not take kindly to this, with @JohnnySober saying: “Headlines should read: King Zwelithini Praises His Former Handlers,” and others like @Sbuda_H saying he was ungrateful for praising the apartheid government while “he is getting millions and millions of rands per year from this government”.
Asked for his comments on Zwelithini's utterances, Pik Botha, who was foreign minister towards the last years of apartheid and minister of minerals and energy under Nelson Mandela's presidency, said: “We must not allow negative elements on history to interfere with reconciliation contained in our constitution.”
The king’s speech comes in the wake of a series of anti-government statements by the leader of the Zulu nation in recent months.
In September, Zwelithini ordered that there should be no government banners at royal events and that the government should stop organising the events.
He said on Saturday this was the first time his anniversary celebrations had been organised by the King Zwelithini Foundation.
The king said the apartheid regime had built a mighty army. He said the currency and economy “surprisingly shot up” under the National Party. “The economy that we are now burning down... You do not want to build on what you had inherited. You are going to find yourselves on the wrong side of history,” he said.
He said while people on the ground did not appreciate the infrastructure inherited from apartheid, democratically elected presidents - Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma - were occupying apartheid infrastructure, including the Union Buildings and Parliament.
“I am surprised that all presidents who have been in the so-called democracy occupied apartheid buildings where they make all these laws that are oppressing us.
“But you on the ground are burning everything that you found here. You don’t want to use them (buildings), you say this is apartheid infrastructure. Your leaders are occupying buildings where apartheid laws were made to oppress you,” the king said.
Despite the National Party having created anti-black laws, he was happy it had treated him with respect. “The Afrikaners respected me. I don’t know how it happened that they respect me so much,” he said.
He said at the kwaKhethomthandayo Palace there were still medals which the apartheid government had awarded to his kingdom.
The king also touched on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which released its preliminary report last week on the king’s alleged involvement in xenophobic attacks early this year. The commission had recommended he make a public apology or risk being taken to the Equality Court.
Early this year, it was reported that the king called on foreigners to pack up and return to their home countries.
He said he would in January address the Zulu nation on the outcomes of the report, which he said were an insult to the nation.
The king’s traditional prime minister and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi told Independent Media the SAHRC report had exonerated the king, but he said the commission should explain why it had called on the king to issue a public apology.
“I am pleased they exonerated him, but I'm confused that they still insist he must apologise. There seems to be a contradiction,” Buthelezi said.
Political analyst Protas Madlala said apartheid succeeded because it was supported internationally. “There are other people who think life was better under apartheid, because of the international racism that made them believe that,” he said.
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