The king of South Africa’s Zulu community, the country’s largest ethnic group, on Wednesday appealed for an end to unrest after six days of looting left scores of dead and battered the economy.
“I call for peace,” Misuzulu Zulu said in a maiden speech on state television.
The violence “has brought great shame” on the Zulu people, he said.
“This chaos is destroying the economy, and it is the poor who will suffer the most,” he warned.
The 46-year-old, who succeeded his father Goodwill Zwelithini who died in March, was flanked by the prime minister of the Zulu nation, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Speaking alternately in Zulu and English, the king said “my father’s people are committing suicide” as he called for restraint and peace.
Seventy-two people have died and more than 1,200 people have been arrested, according to official figures, since ex-president Jacob Zuma began a 15-month jail term for contempt, sparking protests that swiftly turned violent.
Looters have rampaged malls and warehouses, dealing a crippling blow to business confidence at a time when South Africa’s economy has been badly hit by anti-Covid measures.
“What is even more saddening is that so many of those who are drawn to this lawlessness and criminality are members of the Zulu nation,” the king said.
“It has brought great shame upon us all… as fingers are pointed at my father’s people,” he said speaking in English.
Zulus account for more than 11 million of South Africa’s 59 million people.
The monarch wields moral influence over them, but does not have executive power.