South Africa's influential Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini on Monday described recent anti-xenophobia attacks as "vile", defending himself against claims that previous comments he made about foreigners had fuelled the unrest.
At least seven people have been killed in the latest wave of anti-immigrant violence to hit South Africa, which began almost three weeks ago in Durban, a coastal city in the Zulu heartland.
"We need to make sure no more foreigners are attacked. We must stop these vile acts," Zwelithini told thousands of supporters at a stadium in Durban.
Some hostile sections of the crowd were singing songs calling for immigrants to leave and booed an earlier speaker who said foreigners had a right to live in South Africa.
Zwelithini has been accused of fuelling anti-immigrant unrest after local media quoted him saying foreigners should leave South Africa. He said his comments were taken out of context.
"The country has only been shown a portion of my speech, which has been selective," Zwelithini said.
"If it were true that I said 'foreigners must go' this country would be up in flames."