King Goodwill Zwelithini said the ongoing killings of white farmers should not only be condemned by the white community, but should be the concern of the entire nation.
Delivering his speech at the official opening of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday, the king also challenged the rest of South Africa to speak out against racism instead of making it only the problem of those who were being discriminated against.
He said social cohesion and reconciliation, the country’s two nation-building projects, had failed because people saw themselves as belonging to a group instead of being part of South Africa.
“If we are being honest with ourselves, these two initiatives have failed to take us forward from our sad past,” said the king.
He said the challenges that confronted the nation were being dealt with in racial terms, adding that as a nation “we tolerate rather than embrace each other”.
In reference to Penny Sparrow’s racist outburst in which she called black people at the beachfront “monkeys”, the king said her comments must be criticised by all South Africans.
“If someone has been called a monkey that should shock the whole nation, not just black people, because such statements take us back as a nation.”
“If a farmer is killed there should be widespread condemnation of such acts, not only from white farmers, but from all of us because the victim is a South African irrespective of where he comes from,” said the king.
He said the lack of job opportunities for young people should not only be discussed by a certain racial group “because this would affect all of us”.
Zwelithini said South Africa was at a crossroads because of its failure to implement social cohesion.
The king said reconciliation had failed because the project had been hijacked by experts from Gauteng or Cape Town who had no clue of local conditions.
“In short, I am saying let us put a stop to all the glittering functions meant to discuss reconciliation. Let us go to the communities on the ground who are affected to encourage reconciliation.”
He said racial groups depended on each other.
“I always say that the history of the Zulu nation would not be complete without the history of the Indian communities, and the history of English people, Afrikaners and Germans.”
“If we accept this truth we would go beyond tolerating each other to embrace each other,” he said.
He said the government should go back to the drawing board to plan new programmes to visit various communities.
“Let’s come up with programmes to visit communities in Chatsworth, Phoenix, KwaMashu or Inanda when there are problems between Africans and Indians communities.”
Zwelithini called for greater unity among political parties in KwaZulu-Natal and that they should avoid the violent scenes witnessed during the President Jacob Zuma’s recent State of the National Address.
“Parliament has lost its dignity. What used to be a grand occasion when international guests are in our country has become a spectacle where chaos is the order of the day when the international spotlight is in our country,” said the monarch.
“It is not an exaggeration that what we see in national parliament brings shame. I appeal to you as your king, regardless of your political affiliation to work at ensuring that in the KZN Legislature none of the scenes witnessed in parliament takes place in this province,” he pleaded.
He also called for introspection on political parties regarding who they elect to hold public office. According to the monarch there is a danger that some parties are electing people who are just eager to fill their pockets during the five-year term in public office.
“The province and the country needs vision driven and courageous leaders so that future generations do not suffer because of the decisions taken today. As public representatives, ask yourself whether you are still living up to the oath of office.”
He cautioned the ANC to wisely use the mandate given by the electorate, warning of high levels of poverty in many communities.
He also applauded the role played by opposition parties, calling on them to continue with their oversight role and providing alternatives to the province’s problems.
“You are discharging your duties well and that will strengthen democracy, continue in playing that role,” he said.
He also warned against the growing use of violence to settle political scores, saying the scenes witnessed in the build-up to the August 3 local government elections where people were killed should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Turning his attention to young people, the king acknowledged that the generation gap meant that young people hold differing views from their elders, but pleaded for respect.
He said KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa was in need of leadership from young people and this should be demonstrated at all times.
“The leadership I am referring to should be demonstrated when you have challenges in health, education or looking for work. Solve problems as opposed to exacerbating them and protect future generations,” he said.
He also called on civil servants to be more committed when serving the public, citing the Esidimeni episode in which over a hundred patients died as a wake-up call to everyone on how mentally ill patients should be treated.
The king also reprimanded KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Scott and her Human Settlements and Public Works counterpart Ravi Pillay for not attending the annual Reed Dance ceremony, an event which he said was driving social cohesion.
He said Scott and Pillay’s failure to go to his traditional ceremonies was defeating the efforts of rainbow nation.
Premier Willies Mchunu apologised to the king for Pillay and Scott not attending the Reed Dance.
“This means that my job (of talking to them) would be easy Your Majesty because they are not children, they are adults who are capable of listening.”
Scott declined to respond to The Mercury when asked about the king’s remarks.
However, Pillay said he viewed the king’s comments as gentle, corrective, fatherly advice.
“When His Majesty speaks we listen. His Majesty is a very important pillar of the social cohesion efforts in the province and we must do everything to support those programmes.”
The opening of the legislature was attended by among other guests, First Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Dr. Frank Mdlalose Members of the Provincial Legislature, provincial cabinet members, business people, councillors and members of the public.