Bull killing: it’s time to talk, judge urges

2010-08-21 00:00

WITH the next Zulu harvest festival just around the corner, during which young warriors kill a bull with their bare hands, it is high time that the government calls together the Zulu king and all the other stakeholders to discuss the ritual.

This was the opinion expressed by Judge Nic van der Reyden yesterday in the high court in Durban when he heard an application by members of Animal Rights Africa (ARA) to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Emotions ran high last December when Van der Reyden heard a last-minute application by members of the ARA to ban the ritual, known as Umkhosi wokweshwama, or order the police to ensure that the animal did not undergo unnecessary suffering.

The reaction to his finding to dismiss the ARA’s application with costs was “shocking”, Van der Reyden revealed yesterday.

Among other things he received messages from people who said he would “burn in hell for eternity”.

“I am used to such messages. How­ever, the fact is that the issue arouses strong emotions on both sides. Zulus feel very strongly about it, but one should also respect those who find something like this totally foreign,” Van der Reyden said.

The ARA argued in court papers that the bull is killed in a cruel manner, but could not back this up with sworn affidavits.

The description of the ritual in eyewitness statements came from the respondents, who included KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize and King Goodwill Zwelithini. According to these statements the bull may not be maimed, and it is killed by breaking its neck.

Van der Reyden said there was enormous pressure in December to hear and finalise the case.

“By rights a case like this should be heard by the highest court in the country instead of by a single judge, and oral evidence should be led,” he said yesterday.

According to advocate Michael Smithers SC, on behalf of the ARA, his clients have tried ever since then, but without any success, to enter into discussions with the king, his representatives and a constitutional commission.

Sipho Mdhluli, special adviser to the premier, who attended yesterday’s court proceedings, said the premier’s door is always open and they would prefer to settle the issue out of court.

Smithers argued that leave to appeal against the costs order should be granted, since cost orders work against the extension of constitutional law.

Van der Reyden dismissed the application because the ARA could not prove in December that the bull is killed in a cruel manner.

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