Sonke calls for apology and retraction from King Goodwill Zwelithini regarding recent comments on corporal punishment

At a gathering of educators and school governing body representatives at Esikhawini TVET College near Empangeni on Tuesday 3 October 2017, the KZN MEC for Education, Mthandeni Dlungwane spoke out against corporal punishment in schools. He was disagreeing with comments made by King Goodwill Zwelithini at the same event. Dlungwane said:

“It is sad and annoying that in this day and age I still find myself as the MEC for Education having to speak about corporal punishment. I do not think there is any teacher who does not know that corporal punishment was banned a long time ago.”

In the wake of a series of incidents of corporal punishment highlighted in the media, King Goodwill Zwelithini said: “These laws do affect us negatively because children have to be corrected.” According to, which reported on the issue, “The king also said some children were motivated to perform their best just by seeing the stick.”

In 2012, KZN was reported as the province with the highest use of corporal punishment at school, with 74% of schools still using corporal punishment.

According to the National School Violence Survey by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention: “Provincial rates of corporal punishment by schools ranged from 22.4% to 73.7%, with the highest levels of corporal punishment observed in KwaZulu-Natal (73.7%).”1

In his recent comments, King Zwelithini equated discipline with hitting children and said that laws about corporal punishment were bad for parents. As research from Africa2 and Sonke’s own parenting programmes3 show, discipline does not require hitting or beating.

In contrast to the king’s statements, proverbs in Zulu put into question the claim that hitting children is part of African culture. For example the Zulu proverb, which states:

Induku ayiwakhi umuzi (beatings don’t build a home)

Sonke acknowledges the courage of the MEC to disagree with the king at the event. We need more leaders in education like MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane.

Sonke is currently co-hosting the Five Days of Violence Prevention Conference in Johannesburg. During the conference, evidence has emerged once again to confirm that childhood exposure to physical and emotional abuse, including corporal punishment, is a significant contributing factor to men’s use of violence against women.

Speaking during the event, Bafana Khumalo, Sonke’s Director of Strategic Partnerships said: “In order to prevent gender based violence, we have to include non-violent parenting as a prevention strategy.”

Since its founding in 2006, Sonke has been working with parents to end violence against children and to promote child rights and non-violent and positive parenting. We advocate for the end to corporal punishment in all spaces in South Africa.

Sonke Gender Justice demands:

  • An apology and retraction by King Goodwill Zwelithini.
  • A commitment from the Department of Basic Education to implement the National Protocol on Corporal Punishment in Schools from January 2018.
  • That the Department of Social Development tables the third amendment of the Children’s Act in order to prohibit corporal punishment in all spaces before the end of 2017.


  • Wessel van den Berg, Child Rights and Positive Parenting Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice,, 082 686 7425
  • Bafana Khumalo, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Co-Founder, Sonke Gender Justice,, 082 578 4479
  • Karen Robertson, Communications and Strategic Information Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice,, 076 944 9873


  1. Page 30 National School Violence Survey by Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in 2012
  2. The Good Schools Toolkit by Raising Voices in Uganda