Bull ritual ‘falls foul of code’

2009-11-25 00:00

THE cruelty inflicted during the ritual barehanded killing of a bull, by Zulu warriors at the First Fruits Festival in Nongoma, contravenes South Africa’s obligations under an international code regulating animal welfare to which this country is a signatory.

This will be one of the submissions made next week, before Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Nic van der Reyden, by the Animal Rights Africa Trust, which has filed papers asking for an interdict to stop the “barbaric” ritual from taking place.

ARA suggests the ritual also amounts to an offence under the Animal Protection Act, and violates the constitutional rights of its members who are “deeply distressed and offended” by the act, and even the prospect that the bull will die in that manner.

They argue that public interest “clearly requires” that the Constitution and the law be upheld by the court granting an interdict.

Animal rights champion Steve Smit said South Africa is a signatory to the international Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health, and is bound by its provisions.

He said SA had committed itself to ensure the welfare of animals “to the greatest extent possible”, and said the ritual in question “falls foul” of that code.

The ceremony, known as Ukweshama, is scheduled to take place at one of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s pa­laces during “full moon”, in the first week of December.

Court papers allege the bull will be killed by about 40 men with their bare hands.

“The bull’s eyes, genitals and tongue are ripped out whilst it is still alive, and sand or mud is forced down its throat in an apparent attempt to suffocate it, while it is trampled, kicked and beaten to death,” said Smit.

King Zwelithini, KwaZulu Natal MEC in charge of Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube, and KZN Premier, Zweli Mkhize, have given notice of their intention to oppose the application to be argued on December 1.

The king’s spokesman, Nhlanhla Mtaka, stated at court yesterday he was “confident that people will come to their senses” and realise they are “infringing the rights of the king and the Zulu people to practise their culture”.

Smit said in an affidavit that witnesses to previous ceremonies have been reluctant to disclose the events “for fear of their personal safety”.

He said attendance at the festival is by invitation only and it is not open to any members of the public to witness the bull being slaughtered.

“The ceremony will, therefore, take place behind a veil of inscrutibality to the outside world,” he said.

Smit said his organisation has no way of ensuring that an interdict, if granted by the court, will be observed.

For that reason, ARA asked for an order that the minister of police be informed of the date and venue, and to ensure the presence of police at the ceremony.

Smit submitted further that it is apparent from King Zwelethini’s own website that Ukweshama was “resuscitated” by the king in the last decade, after having “fallen into disuse for a period of at least 30 years”.

He said it cannot be validly claimed, therefore, that the killing of the bull is a necessary part of Zulu culture that must be observed at all costs.

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