Archbishop takes on Zuma
Cape Town - Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Cecil Makgoba disagreed on Wednesday with President Jacob Zuma's comments in support of corporal punishment.
"Consequences of corporal punishment are grave in any language, creed and colour. On this, I respectfully disagree with the President," the archbishop said in a statement.
Makgoba was reacting to comments made by Zuma on Tuesday, at the launch of a road safety and crime awareness campaign at KwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal. He said South Africans should return to the "old way of doing things" because modernity had been harmful to society.
The Timeslive website quoted Zuma saying that, "we have passed laws that prohibit you as a parent [from using] corporal punishment. Today, when, as a parent, you bring your child [to] order by using corporal punishment, you are breaking the law, but the person who passed that law cannot raise your child the way you want to."
Zuma said while he did not blame such legislation, "I can't be diplomatic about this. It's a fact."
Zuma was also quoted as saying that "as Africans, long before the arrival of religion and [the] gospel, we had our own ways of doing things".
"Those were times that the religious people refer to as dark days, but we know that, during those times, there were no orphans or old age homes. Christianity has brought along these things."
Zuma's office has since issued a statement that sought to clarify his comments.
Makgoba said while he did not know the full context in which the comments were made: "We all have a tendency, as we move on in years, to romanticise the past as utopian and without its challenges.
"Given the number of orphans and old age homes, lack of proper sanitation, poor education provision, death on our roads at this critical period for Christians, we need as Christ commanded, to house these orphans as we did of old.
"We need to care for our elderly better as it was done of old."
Makgoba wished the President, his Cabinet and "all God's servants serving God's people in politics", a Christmas season in which they experienced "His love and compassion".
Meanwhile, AfriForum, said it planned to discuss Zuma's comments with the government and African National Congress.
AfriForum deputy head Ernst Roets called on Zuma to apologise for his "extremely insensitive" references to Christianity.
"His words demonstrate that he neither has sufficient knowledge of South African history, nor an understanding of his compatriots," said Roets in a statement.
"To make such sweeping statements in a haphazard way, is irresponsible and may offend and hurt people deeply. The president's negative comments in this regard are a disgrace," he added.
The SA Council of Churches was shocked by Zuma's remarks.
"We are just taken aback. We are shocked and we don't understand," SACC general secretary Reverend Mautji Pataki said.
"We do not understand why the President, whom we have always counted as one amongst us Christians, would find the Christian faith to be so hopeless with regard to building humanity."
Co-founder of the International Orphan Network website, Sean Grant, said the past was less important than the country's present situation.
"While there may have not been these institutions in the past, certainly we see that the current culture in South Africa is abandonment and negligence. If it weren't for religious groups and non-profit organisations, there would be far more lack of care, if not dying," he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the presidency said Zuma had meant to say that South Africans should not neglect African culture.
"While we should embrace Western culture and Christianity, we should not neglect the African ways of doing things," presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.
While Zuma welcomed "the advent of Western culture, some useful traditional ways of doing things and aspects of African culture were undermined or even eroded".
"The President indicated, among other things, that Western culture had brought about the end of the extended family as an institution, leading to the need for government to establish old age homes, orphanages and other mechanisms to support the poor and vulnerable.
"He added that even poverty was an unknown factor as neighbours were always ready to assist each other, giving one another milk or cattle where needed."