Anti-gay comments reportedly made by the king of the Zulu people are set to be investigated by South Africa’s Human Rights Commission.

The Zulu people are mainly geographically located within the relatively pro-gay African state.

The royal family dismissed the comment that gay relationships were “rotten” as a mistranslation by South Africa’s Times newspaper.

A statement issued by Prince Mbonisi Zulu described “shock and dismay” at the South African Times’ report of the king’s speech, which he says was intended to promote compassion in society.

The royal household said it could be described as “reckless translation”.

A statement issued yesterday said King Goodwill Zwelithini actually told the audience: “During the good olden days our forefathers dedicated their lives for the good of the nation. Men would go for months in the battles to fight the enemies without their wives but did not harass each other sexually and there were no cases of rape of women.

“Nowadays you even have men who rape other men. This is a clear sign of moral decay. We condemned those involved – no matter who you are.”

The South African Times newspaper is sticking to its translation, the BBC reports.

Human Rights Commission spokesman Vincent Moaga said: “If it is indeed accurate that His Majesty, the Zulu king, made the utterances as reported, they constitute hate speech […] and are inflammatory.”