Zulu king's snub irks ARA

2009-11-25 14:20

Durban - Animal Rights Africa (ARA) on Wednesday said it was disappointed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's decision to boycott a meeting called to discuss a bare-handed, bull-killing ritual.

"Sadly, it appears that the king remains unwilling to enter into any dialogue or mediation and is clearly not prepared to support the efforts of the commission," the organisation's Steve Smit said in a statement.

Tuesday's meeting was convened by Pat Mkhize, commissioner for the promotion and protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities, to try and resolve a dispute over the Ukweshwama ritual.

Mkhize called the meeting after Animal Rights Africa (ARA) went to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday in a bid to stop the ritual, scheduled to take place on December 5 at Zwelithini's palace in Nongoma. Ukweshwama is a symbolic way of thanking God for the first crops of the season.

ARA, which argues the ritual is cruel, had agreed to attend the meeting hoping the matter would be settled out of court, said Smit.

"We agreed to the meeting in the hope of reaching some kind of amicable agreement that would result in the suspension of the bull-killing event at this year's Nongoma festival."

'Why single out Zulus?'

Zwelithini's spokesperson Nhlanhla Mataka said they didn't go to the meeting because they felt it was not necessary.

"We hold a view that if there was to be a meeting to discuss customs and culture, all cultural groups should be invited. Why single out Zulus?" he said on Tuesday.

Smit said he was disappointed that only representatives from Premier Zweli Mkhize's office came to the talks.

The respondents in the high court case are the king, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize and the province's MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube.

The ASA argues that during the Ukweshwama ritual, men pull out the bull's tongue, stuff sand in its mouth and try to tie its penis in a knot.

The Zulu Royal Household has vowed to go ahead with the ceremony, even if the court rules against it.

Smit said they turned to the court after attempts to have a dialogue on the matter failed.

'Victims of abuse'

"We feel that it is important that the respondents understand that it is our mission as an animal rights organisation to speak and act on behalf of the voiceless animals who are victims of human use and exploitation."

ARA was acting in the interests of an animal who would die in a manner which contravened the Animal Protection Act, the National Environmental Management Act, and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, he said.

"At this late stage we feel that with both parties believing so strongly in their arguments contained in affidavits supporting their beliefs and actions in this matter, we will rely on the judge to decide who is right and who is wrong," Smit said.

Mkhize said the commission was expected to issue a statement later on Wednesday.