Bull-killing judgment on Friday

2009-12-02 11:31

KING Goodwill Zwelithini and millions of Zulus will know on Friday

morning whether the Ukweshwama ceremony, which includes the slaughtering of a

bull with bare hands, will go ahead on Saturday as planned.

The judgment on the application brought by the Animal Rights Africa

(ARA) was reserved until Friday morning by the Pietermaritzburg High Court


ARA took the Zulu king, KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize and

three government departments to court, arguing that the manner in which bulls

were killed during the ritual was cruel.

Earlier yesterday, Judge Nic van der Reyden proposed that all the

affected parties sit down and consider the use of a video during the ritual so

that it would be established if the killing was cruel.

The proposal was turned down by the respondents and the lawyers had

to continue presenting their arguments after lunch.

“I suggest that all parties sit down and agree whether video

footage can be taken during the ritual so that this matter can be handled by

Parliament,” the judge said before his proposal was rejected.

He said it was difficult for him to rule on the matter, saying that

the bull-killing ritual went to the heart of Zulu tradition.

The judge said he was not trying to dodge making a ruling but it

would be suitable for Parliament to deal with the matter if evidence was found

that the bull was killed in a cruel manner.

A bull is killed during Ukweshwama as a symbolic way of thanking

God for the first crops of the season.

The judge likened the stopping of the bull killing to ordering

Catholics to stop eating the Holy Communion.

He said the issue of bull killing needed to be looked at in a

proper context, saying he believed it was not done by crazy people.

“This has been done for years. It is done by the Zulus who

constitute the biggest population in this country. There are about 10 million

Zulus in this country,” he said.

He said many young Xhosa men died every year during circumcision

rituals but the ritual was not stopped because it was important to the


The judge asked the applicant’s lawyer Michael Smithers if he

thought Parliament was not aware of the bull-killing ritual.

Smithers said he was not sure if Parliament was aware of it.

“Are you telling me that the president [Jacob Zuma] is not aware?

He is Zulu. He must be aware of this.” The judge said his understanding was that

by killing the bull, the Zulus believed they were transferring power to their


“If I rule that the bull should not be killed it means that the

power will not be transferred to the king. Let’s say the king is struck by

lightning after the ruling, people will say it is because I have interrupted

their ritual,” said the judge.

He described the Zulus as a proud nation with a very rich


“They are a very proud nation. The British lost their battles to

the Zulus.”

Smithers argued that his clients had tried several times to engage

the king and government on the issue of bull killing.

“The matter was taken to court after my clients failed several

times to get an opportunity to discuss this matter,” said Smithers.

He said the information and pictures they had showed that the bull

was killed in a cruel manner.

“It is clear that the animal is not killed quickly and it endures a

lot of pain,” he said.

The article published on the African National Congress’s website

showed that the killing of the bull took more than 40 minutes.

The respondents’ lawyer, senior counsel Nirmal Singh, said it was not true that Zulus treated

animals in a cruel manner.

“It is not their culture to ill-treat animals. Ukweshwama is not

aimed at harming animals but for religious purposes.”

He said the Ukweshwama would be meaningless without the killing of

the bull.

Singh questioned why the animal organisation was not raising

concerns about sport fishing which saw fish painfully hooked and released back

to the water.

“The Zulus are not the only ones who kill animals. Certain Jewish

customs include slaughtering. How many rituals will be targeted if the court

stops the bull killing?“

The court proceedings were attended by scores of members of the

Zulu royal family including King Goodwill Zwelithini’s brother Prince Mbonisi

Zulu and senior Prince Reggie Zulu.

The case, which has attracted much media attention, was also

attended by Zulu culture experts including a team of Zulu scholars and members

of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.

The authorities decided to use a bigger court to accommodate the

scores of people interested in the case. This was the same court where Zuma’s

corruption trial was held.

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