In defence of Zulu culture

2008-04-05 00:00

The recent case of a Transnet employee who was fired for sexual harassment and assault after claiming that it is the norm for black people to touch each other and that “if a man wanted a woman he could take her” cannot be left to pass without challenge. It seems that it has become the norm for people, who may or may not even practise the culture they claim to subscribe to, to seek refuge in traditional institutions and practices when they have their backs against the wall. This is an insult to black people in general and the Zulu nation in particular.

Who could forget the media personality who was found to be over the drunk driving limit and pleaded that he had come from a traditional feast hosted by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, and therefore could not have turned down the offer of traditional brew as doing so is rude and is punishable by a fine in the form of livestock.

What also comes to mind is the recent assault of a mini-skirted woman by taxi drivers at a taxi rank in Johannesburg. Zulu culture encourages women to be proud of themselves but does not deem this to be an open invitation to take a woman without consent. Zulu culture allows men to compliment beautiful women (ukukhuzela) on their looks, even if they do not intend to propose to them or ask them out. To corner a woman in an isolated area, as the accused is said to have done, is sexual predation and attributing such barbaric behaviour to Zulu culture cannot be tolerated. Such actions perpetuate the unfounded and false stereotype that women have little or no rights within the context of Zulu culture and that they are treated like mere objects.

What has also raised eyebrows is the stand taken by the Transnet “sexual scavenger’s” union. What is the union saying to its female members? What does this tell us about the union, especially as the man’s case was argued by a woman shop steward? Attempts by the “scavenger” to justify his barbaric and shameful behaviour are the last kicks of a dying horse that deserves its fate.

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