A South African king yesterday apologised for the xenophobic attacks that displaced over 1 000 Zimbabweans early this year, saying people from the two countries must co-exist as they have a common heritage.
King Bhungane III of AmaHlubi Nation told journalists in Bulawayo that South Africans should appreciate that they had a “deep background they share with Zimbabwe”.
The king is among a high-profile list of South Africans in the country for a two-night gospel gala that featured award-winning artistes from the neighbouring country at Phelandaba Stadium in Gwanda, Matabeleland South.
King Bhungane III said he was pained by the actions of a few South Africans who did not appreciate their common heritage with the rest of Africa.
“I will not speak on behalf of the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, but as the people of AmaHlubi, we want to reach out to the families of xenophobia victims.
We want to assure them that we are mourning with them because what happened is not welcome,” he said.
King Goodwill Zwelithini was expected to be part of the South African delegation at the concert but he reportedly cancelled the trip after concerns were raised about his alleged links to the xenophobic attacks.
The king was accused of provoking the attacks after he made inflammatory remarks about foreigners in South Africa, but he has denied the accusations.
King Bhungane III said South Africa did not condone violence and valued the ties it had with other countries in the region.
“I would like to believe that Zimbabwe and South Africa are one. When I am here [Bulawayo]I am home and as part of my visit here, I want to revive the Embo Kingdom which has some of its descendants here,” he said.
One of South Africa’s prominent artistes at the Gwanda gala, Bongo Maffin band member Stoan, said the event gave him an opportunity to show Zimbabweans that he was against xenophobia.
“This show is my chance to show the people of Zimbabwe the level of connection we have with them, as well as to show my deep brotherhood to the people here,” he said.
“This event will again be an opportunity to look back at what happened and try to balance the opinion that we do not love Zimbabweans.
“If we hate the people of Zimbabwe,it means we hate ourselves because they are part of us.”
At least seven people were killed and 307 suspects arrested in three weeks of unrest throughout South Africa, the worst xenophobic violence since 2008 when 62 people died, mainly in Johannesburg’s townships.
Meanwhile, thousands of Gwanda residents braved the heat and thronged Phelandaba Stadium for the gospel gala.
Residents said the gospel concert took them off their daily life stresses brought about by economic hardships and the recent massive job cuts.
The Gwanda Residents Association welcomed the top artists to the Matabeleland South capital.