Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has denied making recent anti-gay comments, insisting that the media mistranslated his speech.
On Monday, The Times reported that Zwelithini had, at an event in Kwazulu-Natal on Sunday, said that “Traditionally, there were no people who engaged in same sex-relationships”.
He was further quoted as saying: “There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten. I don’t care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable.”
The report generated immediate outrage within the LGBT community, with complaints being submitted to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
The Zulu Royal Household, however, has denied that the king made the comments.
“At no stage did his majesty condemn gay relations or same sex relations,” Prince Mbonisi Zulu told SAPA.
He said that the speech had been mistranslated and that Zwelithini had spoken out about the moral decay that was affecting women and children in society.
Zulu claimed that the King had stated that in the past Zulu warriors would go for months without their wives but that this did not lead them to sexually harass each other.
“He said nowadays you even have men who rape other men. The king said this was a clear sign of moral decay and he said he condemned those involved, no matter who they were.”
Meanhile, the SAHRC confirmed that it will be writing to Zwelithini to “ascertain whether he did in fact make such statements and if he did, to immediately retract them”.
Spokesperson Vincent Moaga said that if true the alleged statements were “inflammatory,” especially in light of ongoing hate crimes perpetrated against the LGBT community.
“If it is indeed accurate that His Majesty, the Zulu King, made the utterances as reported, they constitute hate speech, are dehumanising and are a violation of the constitutional right of LGBTI people to equality and freedom,” said Moaga.