Police Minister Bheki Cele’s decision to cancel a meeting to talk about quelling xenophobic violence with hostel headmen because Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini had not been consulted is concerning, a constitutional law expert has lamented.
This has been viewed as interference and undue influence by King Zwelithini in the affairs of the state, as it was a government meeting.
The meeting was scheduled with headmen from Jeppestown and surrounding hostels, from where the attacks have mostly been carried out, and was planned for last Sunday. The attacks on foreign nationals and their properties have left 12 people dead.
Constitutional law expert Phephelaphi Dube said it was concerning the king seemed to influence state affairs because SA was a constitutional democracy and traditional leaders were not appointed based on democratic principles.
“Traditional leaders have a right to cultural practices but it becomes a problem when it leads to the breakdown of trust and communication,” he said.
Dube said there should be clear lines between the affairs of the state and traditional leaders.
Although Cele’s meeting was cancelled, veteran Inkatha Freedom Party member of parliament Mangosuthu Buthelezi attempted to address hostel residents, but his message of peace was ignored. The group, some wielding sticks, pangas and tree branches, marched through Johannesburg city centre and one person was stabbed.
Buthelezi’s visit was blamed for the violence, which resulted in a public spat between the veteran politician and the police minister.
Cele said he was “taken aback” to learn the meeting had continued with Buthelezi. It was a political meeting “and unfortunately it came up with this upswing of the violence”.
Buthelezi took exception to Cele’s remarks, saying he was too old for political point-scoring and that he attended the meeting as an elder and not a politician. “In the midst of a crisis, leaders must act,” he proclaimed.
The Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs Haniff Hoosen said the country needed all the resources it had to stop the violence and that King Zwelithini and Buthelezi had a critical role to play.