IsiZulu phrase ‘Ziyakhala’ comes under scrutiny at SAHRC investigating July riots

Durban – KwaZulu-Natal Police Commissioner Lieutenant – General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi says it was not a criminal offense to use the IsiZulu popularised term azikhale.

Mkhwanazi was answering questions from the evidence leaders on Tuesday during the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings into the July riots sitting in Durban. Asked whether the phrase was a key factor behind the deadly violence, Mkhwanazi said he does know of any specific police investigation looking into the use of the phrase during the looting incidents.

“As far as I’m concerned, it is not a criminal offense to use the term azikhale. Besides, the word doesn’t exist in the IsiZulu vocabulary. Any investigation that relates to this would be a waste of police resources. But I do know that ziyakhala started trending around July during the unrest. Even now the word is still being used,” Mkhwanazi told the commission.

The phrase ‘Azikhale’ was popularised by Ngizwe Mchunu, a former Ukhozi FM radio personality leading up to the pro – Zuma protests.

Azikhale or Ziyakhala is a common saying that originates from stick fighting practiced mostly in rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Ngizwe Mchunu

It can be loosely translated as ‘let the games begin’. Azikhale became a buzzword during the looting spree as before shops were attacked, the crowds would scream ‘azikhale’ before invading the shops.

The commission has also heard that the wave of protests which engulfed Gauteng and KZN were well orchestrated at a high political level.

The violent protests which the government diagnosed as a failed insurrection claimed more than 300 casualties with more than 200 of the deaths recorded in KZN.

The probe headed by advocate Andre Hurtley Gaum is tasked with investigating the circumstances that led to the mass murders, including investigating the political factors, the lapses in law enforcement and the economic and social conditions that might have given rise to the deadly confrontation.

It is expected to conclude on Friday.

Also read: South African tourism industry loses over R1bn in travel bookings overnight

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