Following controversial utterances made by the Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini during a speech at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature opening, there have been concerns raised about the implications this may have on what are already strained relations between South Africans and foreign nationals, particularly Congolese nationals.
He was quoted in the Sowetan newspaper as saying: “I understand that South Africa is a democratic country and welcomes people from different countries who have run away from their countries for different reasons. As a result, South Africa is home to many Africans but I must express my disappointment at the behaviour of these people.
“Their marching to Parliament was disappointing. They come to South Africa as immigrants but once they are here, they make themselves freedom fighters that in turn tarnish the good image of South Africa; If such behaviour is allowed to continue, I have no doubt that locals might ask themselves many questions and I hope it will never happen,” he said.
He said this in reference to the recent marches by the Congolese Freedom and Justice Fighters living in South Africa who marched to the Union Building; ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House; and parliament in Cape Town to show their dissatisfaction with the South African government’s involvement or lack of in the Congolese elections processes.
Blanchard Kimuena, spokesman for the community, in response to the claims by the king: “Our main concern is that South Africa, as the continent leader, is setting a bad example by indirectly supporting dictatorial regimes in exchange for economic interests, which include oil, gold and diamonds contracts.”
“Hard evidence suggests that the DRC elections were rigged by Joseph Kabila, and yet South Africa kept quiet and swiftly approved its results, which is tantamount to propping a government that lacks legitimacy,” says Kimuena Didier Katogo, an asylum seeker living in Cape Town said, “The statement and assertions are baseless, unfortunate, misleading and have the potential to lead to misconceptions about Congolese living in South Africa.”
Some of the concerns from Congolese citizens that we interviewed were concerned that the monarch’s words have the potential to escalate the level of intolerance from native South Africans against foreign nationals particularly Congolese.
“The king is clearly clueless about the dynamics regarding around the marches and realities in the continent with regards to the challenges that are faced by Africans in their countries.”
“What astonishes me about the king’s comments is that there were marches all over the world and not only in South Africa,” he said.
Numerous marches by Congolese citizens were aimed at highlighting the plight of the Congolese people living in Congo and to raise awareness and the conditions and political situation and how it had a bearing on ordinary Congolese.
We have so much belief in South Africa as a progressive country and the powerhouses in the continent, we (the Congolese people) were disappointed that the South African government opted to protect its relationship with Joseph Kabila at the expense of the Congolese people.
“My mother just made her way into the country last week after my brother sent her down here as a result of the numerous rapes that are taking place in my country,” said Urcile Tsiala, a 23 year old women sitting on a chair in a filthy corner of the centre, with a sleeping toddler in her arms.
She had come to the refugee reception centre to get help processing her papers and has been waiting since four in the morning.
They believe that the march has had negative repercussions for them as many of them were subjected to abusive treatment by the security guards.