Bull killing ritual goes ahead

2009-12-05 00:00

THE ritual, bare-handed killing of a bull at the Zulu Umkhosi wokweshwama ceremony will go ahead today after high court Judge Nic van der Reyden yesterday dismissed the bid by the Animal Rights Africa Trust to interdict the event, which it terms cruel.

There has been an outcry locally and internationally over the alleged way the bull is killed, and letters and petitions have been addressed to President Jacob Zuma.

Van der Reyden said in his judgment he hopes Parliament will intervene to put the issue to rest.

In a 17-page judgment dealing with the background and factual disputes in the case, Van der Reyden said that if the case had been “run of the mill” with no serious consequences, he would have struck it from the roll as its urgency was created by ARA’s delay in bringing the application on time.

But because it is sensitive and affects the rights of all involved, he agreed that it be argued.

Van der Reyden said the facts given by ARA sketch a “shockingly gruesome killing of a bull, which leaves one with a feeling of revulsion”.

The judge said he is also aware that a veterinarian had told the press (The Witness) that it is not possible to kill a bull in a quick and painless manoeuvre by breaking its neck (as suggested by Godfrey Mdhluli, special adviser to KZN’s premier, and historian Professor Simon Maphalala, who said they have witnessed the killing).

However, no medical or scientific evidence was before him in court papers to which he is confined when deciding the matter, Van der Reyden said.

He said it is common cause that the ARA was unable to obtain affidavits from eyewitnesses to the bull killing, and the only eyewitness evidence was put up in papers on behalf of the Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini and organs of state (which include the office of KZN Premier, Zweli Mkhize and KZN MEC in charge of traditional affairs, Nomusa Dube).

The judge said that version differs greatly from ARA’s, showing the killing ritual is the culmination of the Ukweshwama festival.

“This festival is celebrated annually and has been part of the culture of the Zulu nation for generations,” he said.

Van der Reyden said should the bull killing be interdicted (and the order adhered to) the symbolic transfer of the power to the king of the Zulu nation would be prevented.

“The king would therefore be disempowered, albeit symbolically, and the Zulu nation left with a powerless king.

“Common sense dictates that, having regard to the history of the Zulu nation, especially that of pre- and colonial eras, granting an interdict to stop the killing of the bull and ordering the minister of police to give effect to the interdict might just prove to be the proverbial match under the powder keg,” the judge added.

The judge said he also agrees with submissions that although ARA had asked for an interim interdict, the effect of granting it would be final.

A RESEARCHER at the University of KZN, Ndela Ntshangase, who attended court in Zulu attire, hailed the outcome of the court case as a victory for the Zulu nation and its culture.

He told journalists that “boys” (young warriors approaching puberty) kill the bull “as humanely as possible”.

“When the bull is on the ground they break its neck as quickly as possible,” he said.

MEC Dube said she is “excited” by the judgment, which recognises the rights of the Zulu nation to its cultural practice.

Animal Rights Africa trustee Steve Smit expressed disappointment and said ARA will study the judgment before deciding on a next move.

He said he is disappointed by the response of some to the court application, which was viewed as an attack on Zulu culture. The only issue, as far as ARA is concerned, is that of cruelty to an animal, he added.

“It’s a poor reflection on our rainbow state … that people saw this as a racist and cultural issue and attack on the Zulu nation.”

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