Premier’s aide: cruelty claim ‘distorts’ bull slaughter ritual

2009-12-01 00:00

INTERFERENCE at this late stage to stop the ritual killing of a bull at the Zulu nation’s First Fruits Festival in Nongoma on December 5 will result in such extreme emotions and “outpouring of anger” that there is danger of widespread unrest and civil disobedience.

This is the warning given by Godfrey Mdhluli, a special adviser to Premier Zweli Mkhize, in an affidavit filed on behalf of the premier and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube, in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

By late yesterday afternoon, do­cuments were still being delivered to Judge Nic van der Reyden’s chambers by the various parties ahead of today’s application by the Animal Rights Africa Trust. The application asks for an interdict to stop the alleged bare-handed killing of a bull by “about 40” Zulu warriors, at the ceremony known as umkhosi wokweshwama.

In his affidavit, Mdhluli said an interdict would infringe on a number of constitutional rights of members of the Zulu nation, and cause them to forgo the right to engage in a practice that is part of their religion and culture.

He states that he has personally witnessed the bull killing ritual on a number of occasions, and alleges that “hearsay” descriptions of the alleged cruelty involved in the slaughter are inaccurate.

He accuses ARA of having a “jaundiced and distorted” view of the event and says their “unsubstantiated belief about what happens is derived from the unauthenticated material based on hearsay from authors who are cynical of Zulu culture”.

He also disputes the assertion by ARA trustee Steve Smit that the ri­tual had fallen into disuse “for at least 30 years” before being revived by King Goodwill Zwelithini in the last decade, saying the ritual has been performed by the Zulu nation “over time immemorial”.

He states the description, given by ARA, of the manner in which the bull is killed is a “figment of an over-active imagination, probably born from an over-zealous storyteller intent on telling a grand tale that would hardly be of interest to a listener if the true details are rela­ted”.

He submitted that none of the photos presented confirms the description by ARA as to how the bull is killed, and states he is unsure if a photograph submitted by ARA showing a bull’s tongue being pulled by a group of men was, in fact, taken at an ukweShwama ceremony.

But “if it was, it should be asked how it affords evidence that attempts are being made to rip out its tongue”.

Mdhluli said he relies on the opinions of historians Professor J.S. Maphalala and Professor Otty Nxu­malo concerning Zulu customs, culture and tradition.

He complained that the delay by ARA in launching the court application caused severe pre­judice to those who have an interest in the ritual, which is described as “significant and pivotal” to the festival for religious and cultural reasons.

Mdhluli said any interdict granted by the court would have a “final effect” on the ceremony, which cannot be performed at a later date.

“The ceremony is a process that started in early November and entails the first respondent (King Zwelithini) having to go into seclusion, and for large preparations to take place in the meantime.

“Rituals that are performed in pre­paration for the slaughter of the bull are already under way …

“The Zulu nation has been building up towards performing the actual rituals … and expect them to be performed. This cannot be stopped and re-done at a later stage.”

He said a period of “self-sacrifice” and performance of rituals builds up to the occasion when the bull is slaughtered, followed by further rituals.

He also questions the non-joinder in the application of the traditional councils, who have a statutory duty to administer the affairs of traditional communities, and submits that this alone ought to render the application by ARA “fatally defective”.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s office said yesterday that it was optimistic that the court would rule in its favour in the controversial issue of bare-handed bull killing.

“We view this court challenge as nothing but a religious persecution for the Zulu people and the Nguni tribe in general,” said Zwelithini’s spokesman, Nhlanhla Mtaka.

There is some urgency in the case as the clock is ticking fast for the organisers of the ceremony who have just a few days to prepare.

Mtaka said preparations for the ceremony were afoot, adding that the animal group took the matter on to gain publicity.

“We view this as nothing but a publicity stunt aimed at seeking donations. It will be interesting to see how many donations they have received after taking this matter to the media.”

He said people would start arriving at the palace on Wednesday to prepare for the ceremony.

The King last week Tuesday boycotted a meeting convened by Pat Mkhize, commissioner for the promotion and protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities, to resolve a dispute over a bull-killing ritual.

The meeting was only attended by ARA representatives.

The other respondents in the case are the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize.

ARA was not immediately available to comment.

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