Mkhize: Bull-killing ruling promotes cultural tolerance

The Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling allowing Zulus to go ahead with their bare-handed killing of a bull has paved the way for cultural tolerance, said KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize on Friday.

“Events leading up to the decision of the Pietermaritzburg High Court were unfortunate, but have demonstrated the need for the emergence of champions of reconciliation and cultural tolerance,” he said.

The ruling to allow Zulus to go ahead with the Umkhosi Wokweshwama ceremony follows an application by Animal Rights Africa (ARA), which sought to interdict Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, Mkhize and three government departments from going ahead with the ritual.

ARA argued that the manner in which bulls were killed during the ritual was cruel and protracted.

The ceremony is a symbolic way of thanking God for the first crops of the season.

ARA cited witnesses’ claims that the killing took 40 minutes, during which dozens of men trampled the bellowing, groaning bull, and wrenched its head around by the horns to try and break its neck.

The witnesses claimed they also pulled out the animal’s tongue, stuffed sand in its mouth and tried to tie its penis in a knot.

They raised their arms in triumph and sang when the bull finally succumbed.

On dismissing the application on Friday, Judge Nic van der Reyden said he was satisfied with the evidence of cultural expert Professor Jabulani Mapalala that the ARA’s objection to the ritual was based on untrue information and hearsay.

Mapalala said the animal’s death was quick, unpainful and that no blood was shed.

Responding to the ruling, Mkhize said: “We want to promote freedom of worship and religion. Our Constitution was designed specifically to protect all cultures and customs practised by our people.

“This is specifically meant to protect the minority communities from any form of discrimination.”

But ARA expressed disappointment at the pronouncement, saying it was “distressing”.

“That ARA lost this case is distressing to us, however this pales into insignificance for us in comparison to the fact that the fate is sealed for the innocent bull that will be used in the ritual tomorrow.

“We are also saddened and frustrated that the respondents refused to allow ARA to monitor and document the ukweshwama ritual,” it said.

It called on South Africans and all international communities “concerned for the fate of the bull” to light a candle between noon and 3pm on Saturday to show compassion for the animal.

“As part of a global movement that cuts across all continents, all cultures all ethnic and racial groups, ARA will continue to work for compassion, respect, dignity and inclusive justice,” it said.

The African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal welcomed the ruling and called on ARA to apologise to Zwelithini and the nation for “publicly degrading their culture”.

“The ANC does not believe that the culture of uMkhosi Wokweshwama should have been called into question in the first place. As the ANC we believe that no organisation should ever be allowed to dictate how other cultures should practise their traditions and customs,” it said in a statement.—Sapa

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