King Goodwill Zwelithini escapes sanction for his speech which incited xenophobic violence because of his importance to the ANC, writes Jovial Rantao.
Johannesburg - South Africans deserve a huge pat on the back for showing the rest of Africa and the world that the few among us who viciously turned on their fellow Africans do not represent the majority.
It is also good that the rule of law has, to a certain extent, prevailed, and the perpetrators of these heinous deeds will be held accountable for their crimes. In court, they will learn you cannot commit crimes in a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law is king, and get away with them.
However, one individual, one special individual in some people’s eyes, is getting away with murder.
King Goodwill Zwelithini will not be held accountable for his speech of hatred. He will not be hauled before any structure to explain a speech that can only be likened to that of a radio DJ in Rwanda, who described fellow Rwandans as cockroaches and called for their termination.
The Rwandans made sure the DJ paid for his sins. He was taken to the International Criminal Court and is serving a jail term for his crimes. Here, politicians have been falling over themselves to table excuses for Zwelithini, who has, arrogantly, refused to take responsibility and humble himself before his subjects and the nation.
The ANC and President Jacob Zuma and his cabinet ministers have laid the blame everywhere else except where it belongs, with Zwelithini.
Soon after his speech of hatred, which elicited a strong reaction, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, a subject of the king, jumped to his defence and said the king was right.
His cabinet colleague, Malusi Gigaba, also a subject of the king, was more forthright and bold. He did not mention the king by name, but made it clear that he felt it was wrong for leaders to act and speak irresponsibly.
Gigaba’s brave moment lasted a few hours before he crawled to the king’s Enyokeni palace in KwaNongoma to apologise for saying the morally right thing. He was made to say sorry for showing leadership.
Behind the scenes, moves were made to organise a peace rally that would be a golden opportunity for the king to humble himself before his subjects and tell them what he had said was not correct.
Zwelithini squandered the opportunity. Granted, he did call for peace and asked his subjects to protect foreigners. However, he continued to deny his speech had been one big act of incitement.
In trying to exonerate himself, he claimed that “isiZulu cannot be translated (Isizulu asi tolikwa)”.
He was so right; the clear and direct words of incitement, the derogatory terms he used to describe fellow Africans living and working in our midst cannot be translated. His words were clear and unambiguous.
The mollycoddling of the king, failure to bring him to book for his remarks, points to a much bigger problem. The politically correct egg-dancing of ANC leaders around him is clear evidence of how politically important the Zulu king is to the ANC. The governing party cannot afford to upset him.
They lured him from the clutches of the Inkatha Freedom Party with a golden casket full of silver. They created a special directory in the highest office in KwaZulu-Natal, the premier’s office, and through it they kept him in place with golden handcuffs.
The ANC knows only too well that if it even dares to squeak that the king was wrong, let alone suggests he be taken to court, it risks losing the more than 3 million votes that propelled it into power, nationally and more importantly in KwaZulu-Natal. To be frank, he is holding the ANC to ransom.
The double standards do not end there. The king of the Zulus - a traditional leader who is the head of the seven million Zulus in South Africa - enjoys an annual budget of more than R50 million to maintain his lifestyle.
And it is not enough. Every year, he asks for more. And every year there are stories about how the millions have been misspent. This raises the question why South Africa has allowed Zwelithini to be elevated above all the other equally important traditional leaders across our land. This is where the real problem lies.
The king is being treated as - and believes he is - special.
And he probably now thinks he is also above the law. Nothing happened a few years ago when he took an underage girl into his royal palace and made her a wife. The same girl soon fell pregnant, pointing to a case of statutory rape. Again, nothing was done.
The king went on with his life and married the young woman last year in a massive wedding attended by the political royalty of South Africa, including Zuma himself.
If Zwelithini, king of the Zulus, were like King Dalindyebo of the amaMpondo and not politically important to the ruling party, there would be no double standards.
He would have been castigated and held accountable for his speech of hate.
* Rantao is the editor of The Sunday Independent