Don't neglect African culture: Zuma
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has called upon South Africans to not neglect African culture while embracing Western culture and Christianity, the presidency said on Wednesday.
"While we should embrace Western culture and Christianity, we should not neglect the African ways of doing things," presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
The Timeslive website reported that Zuma told attendants at the launch of a road and crime safety awareness event at KwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal, 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," he said.
Maharaj said that the faith-based sector had made a "sterling contribution" for the struggle for liberation and justice for over a century in South Africa.
He said Zuma would meet religious leaders in the new year to discuss how they could work together on issues of social development, healthcare, rural development, basic education and the fight against crime.
Maharaj said that Zuma's comments at the campaign conveyed his views that "while we welcome the advent of Western culture, some useful traditional ways of doing things and aspects of African culture were undermined or even eroded".
These in particular affected the "cohesion" of communities.
He said drawing the conclusion that these comments implied a "negation or rejection of Christianity", was "mischievous".
End of the extended family
"The president indicated, amongst 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."
Maharaj said that "as a whole," the president and the government enjoyed a "positive and fruitful working relationship" with the faith-based sector.
An example of this was how religious leaders had helped identify and assist beneficiaries to obtain social grants.
They also assisted with education, and supporting those who had been victims of crime, social disasters and those who were living with HIV/Aids.
In 2007, Zuma was ordained as an honorary pastor at a meeting of independent charismatic churches in Durban.
Zuma and certain members of the ANC have a history of using religious terminology to promote the party.
On Tuesday, ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga received thunderous applause after he told attendants at the Limpopo ANC elective conference in Polokwane, that "the organisation has a responsibility to rule until Jesus pays us another visit".
These remarks echoed comments made by Zuma in June 2009 at a rally in Mpumalanga, when he said that the ANC "will rule until Jesus comes".
In February this year, Zuma caused outrage after he apparently tried to woo Eastern Cape voters for the local elections by telling them they would go to heaven if they voted for the ANC, and conversely would experience fiery damnation if they did not.
A Democratic Alliance transcript of Zuma's remarks during the voter registration drive in Mthatha claimed he said: "When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don't vote for the ANC, you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork - who cooks people."