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Championing the cause of the demonstrators was Inkatha Freedom Party MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini. He was present at the march, which took place on the day President Jacob Zuma was replying to the debate over his state of the nation address.
Ambrosini said the protest threatened to turn ugly when the speaker and secretary of Parliament refused to accept a memorandum from the protesters that highlighted human rights abuses in the DRC.
The MP said the refusal led to an “imminent, potentially bloody confrontation between the very angry demonstrators and the police”.
Yesterday Zwelithini said he was disappointed by the behaviour of the Congolese marchers, who had criticised Zuma for recognising Joseph Kabila as president of the DRC.
“We respect our leaders and we discourage people who protest and criticise our government and president,” he said.
The king mentioned the Congolese protest to preface his speech opening the legislature session.
He said he understood that South Africa was a democratic country that welcomed foreigners and that some were political asylum seekers, “but now they are getting involved in activities that degrade the dignity of this country”.
“This government was voted in by the majority of people of this country. Their behaviour is unacceptable.
“We expect them to behave when they are here as our people behaved when they were still in exile.
“I condemn it when people gather and go to insult our government,” the king said.
The marchers, who were protesting under the banner of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, said they recognised Etienne Tshisekedi as the legitimate president after chaotic elections held in December.
Contacted yesterday, Ambrosini said he could not possibly comment on what the king had said.
The monarch’s speech did not follow a defined theme and touched on a variety of issues. He paid tribute to the late Amichand Rajbansi and reiterated a concern he raised last year about the poaching of rhinos.
He called on the government and the private sector to build new tertiary education institutions in the province.
He said he was saddened every year to see matriculants being congratulated for passing their exams only to find themselves queueing in vain a few days later for places in colleges and universities.
The king called for the underused government buildings, such as those in Ulundi, to be converted into tertiary institutions.
He said the opening of colleges in smaller towns would reduce the migration of students to urban areas and contribute to economic development of the centres.
He called on politicians to do more constituency work and link up with communities.
He asked the speaker to compile a detailed report about the day-to-day work in constituency offices and urged parties to account for every cent allocated to the offices.
He also spoke out against corruption, saying that more money had not translated into better service delivery.
“It has increased the pockets of a few and the corrupt.”
Zwelithini called for a more caring civil service and warned citizens to keep government and social projects accountable.
“We should all ensure that there is social and government accountability … There should be no stealing of money that is aimed at helping the poor.”• email@example.com