Update: The Zulu royal family has said the comments attributed to the king are the result of “reckless mistranslation”.

Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, King of the Zulu people, has reportedly said gay relationships are a new invention and are “rotten”.

The African king was had been addressing a crowd at Nquthu, KwaZulu-Natal, iafrica.com reports.

The speech came at a memorial for the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana, during which the Zulu army defeated the British.

The battle formed part of the Anglo-Zulu war, ultimately won by the British.

The king told the crowd: “Traditionally, there were no people who engaged in same sex-relationships. There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten.

“I don’t care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable.”

Zulus make up about 20% of South Africa’s population, with 11 million living in the country. Christianity is the most popular religion.