Animal rights group go to court over Zulu ritual

2009-11-23 00:00

IN a bid to prevent a Zulu ritual of killing a bull barehanded, known as Ukweshwama, the Animal Rights Africa (ARA) will approach the Pietermaritzburg High Court court tomorrow to try and put an end to the ritual.

Ukweshwama ritual or the First Fruits Festival, which is presided over by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, is scheduled to take place on December 5 in Nongoma.

“It physically pains us and is an affront to our dignity that an animal is made to suffer in such an overtly cruel and protracted way,” said ARA spokesperson Michele Pickover in a statement yesterday.

According to an eyewitness description of the killing, said Pickover, “for 40 minutes, dozens [of Zulu men] trampled the bellowing, groaning bull, wrenched its head around by the horns to try to break its neck, pulled its tongue out, stuffed sand in its mouth and even tried to tie its penis in a knot. Gleaming with sweat, they raised their arms in triumph and sang when the bull finally succumbed.” It has been also reported that the “Zulu warriors” stab the bull’s eyes. The ritual is considered as a test of courage for the Zulu men.

Pickover said that ARA has exhausted all other remedies to meet with and discuss the issue with the parties concerned, to no avail, adding that ARA had already instruc­ted environmental lawyer Tina Costas to act on its behalf in applying for an order to put a stop to the ritual.

Pickover said that ARA has cited Zwelethini, the national Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, the KZN MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize, and national Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa as respondents.

The Ukweshwama ritual does nothing to strengthen nation building, social cohesion or peace, said Pickover.

ARA’s action is not about cultural intolerance or racial chauvinism as has been stated by supporters of the Ukweshwama practice, said Pickover, adding that the ritual has no place in a democratic South Africa and cannot be condoned. Attempts to get comment from royal household spokesman Prince Mbonisi Zulu were unsuccessful.

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