The Zulu king whose comments are thought to have sparked a wave of anti-migrant attacks in South Africa has called for peace and an end to the violence that has killed seven people so far.
Last month, King Goodwill Zwelithini compared migrants to “lice” that should be removed from the country. He said on Monday that his comments had been misinterpreted.
“This war I am calling for today is to protect everyone of foreign origin in this country, irrespective of which country they are from,” Zwelithini told thousands of supporters at a stadium in Durban, a coastal city in the Zulu heartland where the xenophobic violence began three weeks ago.
Zulus are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, accounting for 18 percent of the population. South Africa has seen several outbursts of xenophobic violence in recent years, fueled in part by high unemployment, poverty and fear that foreigners are taking jobs from locals.
At the University of Johannesburg, students held a protest rally calling for the attacks to stop. Nearby, hundreds of immigrants took shelter in refugee camps.
Police said three people linked to Saturday’s killing of a Mozambican man had been arrested. Disturbing photographs of the man, Emmanuel Sithole, being beaten and stabbed to death in broad daylight have been splashed across local and international media, fuelling calls for the police to do more to protect immigrants.