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Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in KwaNongoma where the annual Reed Dance took place on Saturday. Source: IOL/Motshwari Mofokeng

DURBAN – King Goodwill Zwelithini has said that his patience is wearing thin with students burning down universities, and he will seek meetings with heads of the institutions to discuss how he can provide protection.

The king’s comments at this weekend’s Reed Dance event followed a number of incidents in which property at campuses of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Zululand was burnt, allegedly by students demanding the scrapping of tuition fees.

There have also been protests and vandalism at other universities and schools in other provinces.

“To the heads of higher education institutions, my hands are open if they feel that the intervention of the royal family can bring a difference. I have set up a team which can help them,” he said.  King Zwelithini also lashed out at the government, which he said had made unrealistic promises to the students.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said on Saturday that his government had taken the king’s advice “very seriously”.

The king said students’ violence was painting a picture of a failing nation. “It shows the destruction of the (Zulu) nation, which King Shaka built,” he said.

His main concern was parents who were not disciplining their children.

“Who are the parents of those orchestrating the destruction of South Africans’ property with fire? Why do the parents leave everything to police and government when their children go wild?

The king called on the government to form a forum in which university leaders, the government and students could discuss issues.

He criticised the government for failing to tell students that “we have not managed to deliver, we are appealing that you wait for us”.

“I appeal today to all Zulus to protect anything that is the heritage of the Zulu nation in this province,” he said.

The king also fired a salvo at the Gender Commission for associating virginity testing and the Reed Dance with the abuse of maidens’ rights.

UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the university would welcome the king’s intervention “because nobody can say no to the king”.

“The king is the leader of the people of KwaZulu-Natal, and he can play a significant role in ensuring that we don’t have what is happening at the university, not only in KZN but across South Africa.”

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the maidens’ choice to attend the Reed Dance opened doors to a better future.

Your good decisions secure more than your future, they secure the future of our nation,” he said.

UKZN SRC president Senzo Ngidi said the king had a right to take action as the leader of the Zulu nation.

However, he blamed the police’s “attacks” on students for the violence on campuses.

– The Mercury