South Africa's government human rights agency is investigating whether the Zulu king made comments that could increase anti-homosexual sentiment in a country where gays face discrimination despite liberal laws being in place to protect them.
Johannesburg newspaper, The Times, reported that King Goodwill Zwelithini called homosexuals "rotten" during a speech. The Human Rights Commission spokesman, Vincent Moaga, said the paper stood by the story, but the king's office claimed he was mistranslated.
In a statement, the royal household said the king was expressing concern about moral decay which he believed led men to rape other men.
Mr Moaga's agency said it wanted a transcript of the speech, which was made during a weekend ceremony marking a Zulu victory over British troops.
The king, who has no governing powers in South Africa's democracy but is an influential figure on social and cultural matters, spoke in a remote rural area in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Zulu stronghold.