King Goodwill Zwelithini praised the apartheid era during an event in Nongoma at the weekend.
The National Party, he said, had built a powerful government with the strongest economy and army on the continent, but then came “this so-called democracy” in which black people started destroying the gains of the past.
The king said history would judge black people harshly as they had failed to build on the successes of the Afrikaner regime.
The king was speaking at his kwaKhethomthandayo royal palace in Nongoma on Saturday night during a celebration of his 44 years on the throne.
He said black people “loved to use matches” to burn down infrastructure built during apartheid.
Delivering a speech which ended just after midnight, the king told hundreds of people packed into a big marquee that he felt lucky that he was born the same year the National Party came to power in 1948.
The king’s speech came in the wake of a series of anti-government statements made by the monarch of the Zulu nation in recent months. In September, King 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 that 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 South African currency and economy “surprisingly shot up” under the National Party regime.
“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 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’s having created anti-black laws, he was happy that it had treated him with respect.
“The Afrikaners respected me. I don’t know how it happened that the Afrikaners respect me so much.”
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 which released its preliminary report last week on his alleged involvement in xenophobic attacks early this year.
The commission had recommended that 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 go back to their home countries.
He said he would address the Zulu nation in January on the outcomes of the report, which he said were an insult to the nation.
The king’s traditional prime minister, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, told The Mercury that the 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 that they exonerated him, but I am confused that they still insist that he must apologise. There seems to be a contradiction.”
Political analyst Protas Madlala said the king was playing on the theory that white people could govern better.
“He is right, but he should explain deeper the reason behind their success,”said Madlala.
Apartheid had been supported internationally, he said.
The king and the KZN ANC
Zwelithini’s praise for the apartheid government came a few weeks after the newly elected ANC leadership in KwaZulu-Natal paid homage to the king in an effort to mend fences.
The Mercury understands that freshly elected KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala led a delegation to meet the king, who was unhappy with the disbanding of the Royal Household Department “without consultation”.
This had ruined the relationship between Zwelithini and Premier Senzo Mchunu.
Even worse, in the eyes of the king, was that when the department was replaced with the Royal Household Trust, some of the king’s employees were retrenched and others were absorbed by the premier’s office or the trust.
A royal house insider said this had led to great bitterness among royal household members, and saw the king taking a critical stance against the provincial government at public gatherings.
However, when approached for comment last week, the king’s adviser, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, denied that the relationship between Mchunu and the king was on the rocks .
ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma said the provincial executive committee had met the king a week after the provincial conference that had elected Zikalala to replace Mchunu. He declined to elaborate on what was discussed.
The declining relationship between Mchunu and the king was revealed at the commemoration of King Shaka Day in KwaDukuza in September, which Mchunu attended as one of the speakers.
The king lashed out at government officials for displaying government flags at a traditional ceremony. Some of the flags had Mchunu’s face on them. He also demanded that the government cease organising royal events.
In June the king disapproved of Mchunu’s appointment of former IFP Youth Brigade president Thulasizwe Buthelezi as the chairman of the Royal Household Trust Board. Mchunu was forced to replace Buthelezi with Professor Sihawu Ngubane, the head of African languages at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mchunu’s spokesman, Sibusiso Magwaza, said assuming that Mchunu was not on good terms with the king was “innuendo”, and that the relationship between the two “is neither here nor there”.
“If that relationship is not very good or cordial, then we don’t know what type of a relationship we are talking about,” he said.
King’s controversial comments
January 2012: The king is quoted in the media as reportedly saying that ‘traditionally, there were no people who engaged in same-sex relationships’ and that people who did so were “rotten”.
The reports were strongly denied by the king’s spokesman who blamed the media for “reckless translation”.
July 2014: The king says he will launch a land claim for all the land in KZN and in other provinces that was in Zulu hands in 1838. When criticised, he said: “This land was not taken from the trusts, which are now popular in the country, but was taken from traditional leaders, and your fathers and mothers who were murdered.”
March 2015: The king made a speech in Pongola where he said: “We request that all foreigners should take their baggage and be sent back.” An upsurge of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal followed which some attributed to the speech. The SA Human Rights Commission has ruled that the speech did not incite violence but was ‘hurtful and harmful’ to foreigners and recommended that the king make a public apology.
April 2015: During the xenophobic violence, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba called for leaders not to make inflammatory comments. In response, the king said political leaders, in an apparent reference to Gigaba, should not get carried away with their five years in political power and think they were “demigods”.