Commotion after Zuma's Christianity comments

2011-12-21 22:24

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's comments about the advent of Christianity in South Africa caused a flurry of criticism and clarifications from various groups on Wednesday.

The Timeslive website quoted Zuma as telling the launch of a road safety and crime awareness campaign in KwaZulu-Natal that "as Africans, long before the arrival of religion and [the] gospel, we had our own ways of doing things".

"Those were times that the religious people refer to as dark days but we know that, during those times, there were no orphans or old-age homes. Christianity has brought along these things," he said.

Following the remarks, the presidency and African National Congress chief whip were at pains to clarify Zuma's remarks. Party chief whip Mathole Motshekga said in a statement that Zuma's comments were "perfectly sound".

"Irresponsible journalism will always find a creative way to mislead, and in this case it inexplicably saw an attack on Christianity in the president's perfectly sound assertion," he said.

Motshekga said a distinction needed to be drawn between "Christianity as a faith" and "nefarious missionary activities, which have brought sufferings upon our people".

He said, for example, colonialism was aided by certain missionary "enterprises" who worked under the "guise" of Christianity. Even apartheid was practised "under the cloak of Christianity".

Each for himself

"While African culture has since time immemorial taught people to care for each other, embrace and show kindness to one another, the advent of [a] Western way of living condoned [a] 'each man for himself' principle," said Motshekga.

"This has resulted in elderly people being condemned to old age homes and parentless children sent to orphanages."

Earlier, the presidency issued a separate statement in which it said Zuma's comments were a call not to neglect African culture.

"While we should embrace Western culture and Christianity, we should not neglect the African ways of doing things," spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.

"Western culture had brought about the end of the extended family as an institution, leading to the need for government to establish old age homes, orphanages and other mechanisms to support the poor and vulnerable.

"Even poverty was an unknown factor as neighbours were always ready to assist each other, giving one another milk or cattle where needed."


African Christian Democratic Party president Kenneth Meshoe said Zuma's comments were "hypocritical".

"During elections he [Zuma] runs to churches to get votes," said Meshoe.

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Cecil Makgoba said while he did not know the full context in which Zuma's comments were made: "We all have a tendency, as we move on in years, to romanticise the past as utopian and without its challenges.

"Given the number of orphans and old age homes, lack of proper sanitation, poor education provision, death on our roads at this critical period for Christians, we need as Christ commanded, to house these orphans as we did of old.

"We need to care for our elderly better as it was done of old."


The SA Council of Churches general secretary reverend Mautji Pataki said: "We do not understand why the president, whom we have always counted as one amongst us Christians, would find the Christian faith to be so hopeless with regard to building humanity."

Civil rights group AfriForum said it planned to discuss Zuma's "extremely insensitive" comments with the government and ANC.

Co-founder of the International Orphan Network website, Sean Grant, said South Africa's current problems were the real issue.

"The current culture in South Africa is [of] abandonment and negligence. If it weren't for religious groups and non-profit organisations, there would be far more lack of care, if not dying," he said.


The ANC has a history of using religious terminology to promote itself. On Tuesday, Motshekga received thunderous applause after he told attendants at the Limpopo African National Congress's elective conference in Polokwane that "the organisation has a responsibility to rule until Jesus pays us another visit".

These remarks echoed comments made by Zuma in June 2009 at a rally in Mpumalanga, when he said the ANC "will rule until Jesus comes".

In February this year, according to a Democratic Alliance transcript of Zuma's remarks during a voter registration drive in Mthatha, the president said: "When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don't vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork... who cooks people."

In December 2008, while Zuma was still involved in court action around corruption charges - which were subsequently dropped - Free State ANC leader Ace Magashule told Volksblad newspaper that Zuma was suffering just like Jesus Christ did.

"Jesus was persecuted. He was called names and betrayed. It's the same kind of suffering Mr Zuma has had to bear recently, but he's still standing strong."

Likened to Jesus

In November 2008, Zuma told a national presidential religious leaders conference, that "no-one can argue South Africa is not based on the principles of God".

In 2007 Zuma was ordained as an honorary pastor at a meeting of independent charismatic churches in Durban.

During his 2006 rape trial, many of his supporters likened him to Jesus.

One supporter was spotted outside the High Court in Johannesburg at the time with a white, wooden home-made crucifix, and asking: "Why are you crucifying Zuma?"

The crucifix bore a picture of Zuma with outstretched arms.

  • cosmos.ndebele - 2011-12-21 22:41

    Free speech, Free opinion, free choice. I think he spoke realistically as an African guy. True Christianity was brought to Africa by European colonialist. Old age homes and orphanage homes are Western practices and there is nothing wrong about that.In traditional Africa you look after your old ones without shifting them to old age homes, If both child s parents died relatives chipped in and took in the child compared to orphanage home in the West.

      Paul - 2011-12-21 23:01

      So what do you want then ? Go back to a tribal system ? The reason why we have old age homes and orphanages is because most are all to willing to leave everything up to the state to deal with. Religious organizations do far more than the state in regard to the welfare of the people. So whos' fault is that. The ANC should catch a wakeup and realize no matter what happened when in history. The reality is that just as Religion , Apartheid etc is always brought up, So Please Mr President you seem to have all the answers. Why has there been massive job losses this year? Last year you promised a million jobs. Mr Tokyo Sexwale has already stated that RDP housing is unsustainable, so who get a house and who doesn't? What after 17 years can you hail as a success? Nepotism, Crony ism, Cadre Deployment, restricting access to information? The problem with the ENTIRE ANC is that no one has a set of balls to take on any responsibility! Just blame someone it far easier than actually doing something. Its a tradition now too

      Omnivore - 2011-12-21 23:15

      "If both child s parents died relatives chipped in and took in the child compared to orphanage home in the West." That's not true, in "Western Culture" orphans usually end up with family. Orphanages are a safety net for when a child has no relatives or people who can take him or her in.

      cosmos.ndebele - 2011-12-22 00:00

      Zuma was only critical of African people losing their values and identity, nothing else.

      Jerhone - 2011-12-22 10:38

      to cosmos the zombie it was easy for them to look after the elderly in their kraals that time, because they were always lazy and at home, never working, in modern times people went off to work, it's not easy when you have a job to look after orphans and the elderly, hence orphanages and old aged homes you dumbarse, these bobjaane think they are inteligent always trying to reinvent the wheel that was invented hundreds of years ago and their advisers are even more stupid than they are period

      Sharkshoot - 2011-12-23 15:33

      Yes Van we all know it's true. It's what they do...destroy and make war.

  • rlong1952 - 2011-12-22 00:00

    Zuma is nothing more than an uneducated criminal. He is the laughing stock of the world as is South Africa for allowing someone with ZERO education, skills and ability to be the so-called leader of SA. What a joke he is, shame on those who elected his party and those who elected him as president, how embarrassing.

  • Muruti - 2011-12-22 00:23

    i ,m failing to understand why the name of the lord JESUS should be radiculed by our senior leaders of the liberation movement ( ANC) WHY & WHAT FOR SHOULD PRESIDENT ZUMA BLAME christianity when the problems were not created by christians.i,m very disapointed with the way the ANC SLOGAN OF saying they shall rule until jesus comes back.. that is an insult to christians..let them one day talk of prophet mohamed,, i,m telling u b4 sunset some1 will be apologising to islam community. if this ppl dont respect our religion , why do they canvass at our churches during election times.. LET ME QUOTE EXACTLTY WHT THEY SAID.The ANC has a history of using religious terminology to promote itself. On Tuesday, Motshekga received thunderous applause after he told attendants at the Limpopo African National Congress's elective conference in Polokwane that "the organisation has a responsibility to rule until Jesus pays us another visit.During his 2006 rape trial, many of his supporters likened him to Jesus.One supporter was spotted outside the High Court in Johannesburg at the time with a white, wooden home-made crucifix, and asking: "Why are you crucifying Zuma?. in June 2009 at a rally in Mpumalanga, ZUMA said the ANC "will rule until Jesus comes". Ace Magashule told Volksblad newspaper that Zuma was suffering just like Jesus Christ did."Jesus was persecuted. He was called names and betrayed. It's the same kind of suffering Mr Zuma has had to bear recently, but he's still standing strong."

      Hadassah57 - 2011-12-22 06:59

      God will not be mocked and He sets up governments and takes them down!

  • Henning - 2011-12-22 00:26

    What will this guy come up with next? Zuma and Pieter De Villiers should team up...their utterances in public will make for good comedy

  • Etienne - 2011-12-22 01:47

    Oh man, JZ, don't you know that that's not the way to put forth any argument, especially one that could have some substance hiding in it, one that has many dimensions? A clumsy soundbite during a speech? That's your contribution, JZ? This is where you write an essay, or SOMETHING, like Steve Biko. Oh, I forget it's 2011, and you don't even have to try anymore.

  • keketso.polisa1 - 2011-12-22 01:57

    That was then, this is now.

      keketso.polisa1 - 2011-12-22 08:49

      Christianity that I know: when you're on drugs, they help rehabilatate, when you're sick, they take care of you, when you are wrecking the countrie with your misguided comments, they pray for you, when you're a thief, they counsel you, the list is endless... I know of one religion on the face of the earth that when you're a thief, they cut off your hand, when you utter nonsense about them, they blow you up with themselves, the list is endless... so, which christianity is he talking about?

  • Jimmy - 2011-12-22 02:09

    Mathole Motshekga now blames the journalists - how typical ANC.You guys are busy trashing the name of the Press in this country for your own insidious purposes. I call on Motshekga to substantiate his statement about irresponsible journalism. All I saw was reporting of facts - It's others who attacked Zuma.

  • casperinroc - 2011-12-22 03:25

    true in a way. Wouldn't call it religion though. In Asia, the parents care for their young and in turn gets the benefit of being cared for when they are old. No age old homes here.

  • Johann - 2011-12-22 06:25

    He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. He is an idiot. That points clearly to a political career. George Bernard Shaw Zuma - how ashamed I am being a South African and having an idiot as a president. By now the whole world must be thinking that all South Africans are idiots, like most of the "leaders" in the ANC.

  • Renier - 2011-12-22 06:34

    The rule of God was thrown out of government... some even has the audacity to proclaim that not even God can do this or that. They should remember that the designer of the Titanic also said that not even God can sink the ship... Stay away from religion if you can not embrace it. You are playing with fire! Funny thing is that nobody tries to belittle the Muslim Faith in SA. The Muslims simply will not allow it. (For that they have my respect) If the rule of religion/or religion does not count in government why the constant reference to God or Jesus? For those that do not believe I am not starting a fight. It is your right and I respect that as well.

  • Hadassah57 - 2011-12-22 06:42

    Quite clear what Meshoe states: Zuma knows where to go when he wants votes but does not know God's word which plainly states: "A religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." ~ James 1:27. He also clearly does not know that God sets up governments and takes them down!

  • Dumisani - 2011-12-22 06:52

    but you just love factors that colonialism has brought about. like money, cars, power and you favourite (Mr. Pres),corruption.... oh how you love corruption. ironic how you anc whips have enriched yourselves selfishly without considering the orphans and old people.

  • raymond.kok3 - 2011-12-22 06:53


  • paulvkeys - 2011-12-22 06:56

    Organised Religion = Hypocrisy. This has been apparent and evident through time, the apartheid government claimed to be devout christians yet they suppressed an entire nation, killed, imprisoned and tortured thousands. And then there are the religion inspired attacks in the name of Islam, and also the thousands that have been killed in the struggle for holy ground between the Jews and the Muslims. And let's not forget the crusades where hundreds of thousands of Muslims were slaughtered by the Christians. So even if JZ was speaking out against Christianity (which he clearly was not - the press and Christians nuts are embellishing his statements), I'll stand by him on this one.

      Jerhone - 2011-12-22 20:06

      you see Paul the whole killing thing is not from people who worship GOD,JESUS or ALLAH it's from people who worship churches, mosques and temples, pasters, ministers, imams and rabi's they take their teachings from mortal corruptable men who twist the scriptures to meet their own needs, they don't take counsel and guidance from GOD they have put their faith in mere man, thats why i can't blame people that find religion disgusting, GOD does not need us puny mortals to fight or kill in his name, he does not need us to protect him in anyway, one of his comandments was thou shalt not kill, all he wants is for us to love him and those around us

  • Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-22 06:58

    I think perhaps the media has blown this out of proportion, there is sense in encouraging good values like looking after your own instead of just dumping them in old age homes. The annoying thing is the usual populist dig at white people being responsible for this. I do agree the missionaries actually had no right to try to force their religion on the indigenous people, but a lot of traditional culture certainly did not add value to life - like the belief in witchcraft. So in that sense the missionaries helped, and also christian values are pretty good values for a society to adopt. Zuma and the ANC love to refer to Jesus and Heaven in their populist rhetoric, that to me is very destructive and they should expect to alienate christians. They abuse the christian religion the way they use it in their utterances. Not a very trustworthy bunch.

  • J.D. - 2011-12-22 07:07

    I am not an ANC member or a Zuma supporter. On the contrary. I do not know the full context of what he said BUT he stated the fact that Christianity (and therefore white people) brought homes for eldery people and orphans to Africa. He is factual correct and it seems to me he hit a nerve. WE DO put those people in homes and it is NOT right. In that sense we are hypocritical as Christians.

      Stefan - 2011-12-22 09:19

      Putting your own dependants in homes might not be right, but caring for other people's dependants when they've abandoned them is the Christian way. The problem is not the orphanages or old age homes, it is the orphans and abandoned elderly. Thank God for the missionaries, orphanages and old age homes!

  • pws69 - 2011-12-22 07:12

    Regarding orphanages and old age homes, it might be worth noting that the black population in SA is over ten TIMES more than it was in 1900. The land mass has remained the same. But I suppose in the Zuma African utopia this is not a factor.

  • akaRags - 2011-12-22 07:14

    The fact of the matter is that we are living in a "modern" world now, we cannot go back in time, and it's time Africa learned to co exist with that modern/western world. I'm not saying Christianity is perfect, or that it was perfect in the past, but has any way of life been perfect? When Shaka built his fearsome and proud Zulu kingdom, he didn't stroll around saying "peace my brothers and sisters", time for some nation building. Yes, there may be factors why many indigenous Africans are loosing their traditional ways, but at the end of the day, every person is responsible for their own actions & we can only blame others for so long, before we have to look into our own souls.

  • pws69 - 2011-12-22 07:25

    It might also be worth noting life expectancy. In 1900 life expectancy was estimated at 38 years. In 1992 it was 63 years. Can I then conclude that we didn't need old age homes in Zumas old African utopia, simply because there WERE NO OLD PEOPLE in any numbers?

  • Just - 2011-12-22 07:25

    I think the media is blowing things out of propotion as usual,having read the above article I don't find any offensive words. He's right we as africans have turned away from what makes us and in the process we've ended up adopting all that's western...I applaud Mr. President..

      Hadassah57 - 2011-12-22 08:16

      Choose words wisely: "adopting ALL that's western" has wide implications... modern homes, microwaves, tv's, cars just to name a few and all which do not fit into certain cultures but they all want it, amazing!!!

  • Boris - 2011-12-22 07:32

    seems like our dear leader is longing for the days when he was herding goats? these western ideas are too much for him.....

  • Diederik - 2011-12-22 08:11

    From the mouth of a person with a rape charge, father of many bastard children that spreads HIV and neck deep in crime and corruption. This is a true representation of African Culture and a non Christian soul. African culture teaches us to care for one another, so why is a women or child raped ever 3 seconds in South Africa since 1994?

  • - 2011-12-22 08:38

    I could think of a million things to call this idiot that we have as our President.. but, religion aside, orphanes and old age homes are brought on by a multitude of factors, including AIDS, poor service delivery and a blatant disregard for human life. If our President is married to a number of woman, had children with woman he is not married to, what kind of example is he setting? Just go out and sow your oats??? Before you blame Christianity or anything else, look at the example YOU are setting Mr Zuma... You should have understood the impact the of your words, and your actions.. and as you clearly don't, yo don't know 'your people' and as such, you are not fit to run this country.

      Robert - 2011-12-22 11:50

      damn STRAIGHT!

  • Blossom - 2011-12-22 08:41

    Freedom of speech allows him to say what he likes and we have the right to acknowledge that he continues to be an idiot.

  • jacques.kriek - 2011-12-22 08:45

    It must then be Christianity that brought roads, cars, houses, infrastructure, and to think of it also a presidency then, because before Christianity was here none of those things were! With this reasoning Zuma would have been fresh out of a job, as I doubt he is a royal African descendant, and wouldn't have stood a chance to be an african king.

  • Ed de la Rey - 2011-12-22 08:58

    Lol for once I agree with Zuma. The Christian faith is exactly that - faith, otherwise rational people will believe anything when they adopt it... Good on ya Zumaniac!

  • Xenswim1 - 2011-12-22 09:02

    Great coming from one who used the church to give his political measage. to become president and claims that the ANc is gods chosen. We now know the truth. Africa always has the begging bowl in one hand and a gun in the other. They rely on others to fund what they do not want to fund. Looking after children and the aged is not the African way no matter what Zuma says. All that is needed is to look at the drop in funding for old age homes and orhanages to see that since 1994 the ANC shows little concern. We have to take note what demographic is most prevelent in donating their time for little gain and what demographic has the pechant for volunteering only if there is financial gain. Government definately appears to fund that they consider politically expedient and where they know votes can be gleaned. All others must wait for the donation from Christian, Jewish and Muslim good thinking people that wish to aliviate suffering out of kindness.

  • Nicholas Rogerson - 2011-12-22 09:02

    Mr Zuma does not use any methods to help the people. Traditional or Christian none seem to prevail in the land of the Fat Cats.

  • Stefan - 2011-12-22 09:08

    There is some truth buried in what Zuma said, but he missed the mark with the way he worded it. Christianity may have brought old age homes and orphanages, but it did not create the neglected elderly and orphans. He should have rather blamed Western Culture than Christianity. The problem is, if you want to place the old African Culture above Western Culture, there is much more than orphanages and old age homes you have to get rid of. Africans accepted Western Culture because of all the benefits and technological advancements from the more advanced European civilisation. Christianity (and other religions) are just trying to deal with some of the complications that came with civilisation. At the end of the day, Zuma could have gotten the same moral message across and offended much less people if he had said that all South Africans should follow the values which Christianity and old African Culture have in common, such as caring for the members in your families.

  • Nicholas - 2011-12-22 09:42

    "Quote""while african culture has since time immemorial taught people to care for each other,embrace and show kindness to one another......!! If thats the case why did you dumb f***k*rs sell your women,sisters and brothers and children to the Arab slave traders who practiced the cruellest brutality on them before selling them on the world market? Don't give us your so called goodie two shoes culture when now all you do is rape and murder. You talk crap!!

  • 3pherb - 2011-12-22 10:08

    Zuma and his Government are loose cannons. They dont ever consider the consequances of their statements, then blames everybody for either misrepresenting or misunderstanding. I personally think none of these idiots are conscious when they say anything.

  • GoldenTeacher - 2011-12-22 10:11

    The romanticised idealisation of any society, be it Christian or African, is a marker of fascism (just think of how the Nazis idealised a German past, or even how the apartheid government idealised an Afrikaner past). In truth, there is no 'original' society upon which our social principles must be founded. There is only what we have right here, right now. The failure to take care of orphans and the elderly is definitely symptomatic of something wrong in society. But we cannot solve the problem by looking to 'old ways' of doing things or by moralistic preaching that our actions be dictated by the principles of universal Christian love. South Africa's problems are structural: bad management in government, poverty, poor education infrastructure, a buckling health-care system, and a society divided by petty differences of race and culture (petty differences which find voice in many of the comments posted here). If everyone could stop being emotional for a second, we might be able to actually do something to address our problems. We need to think about the real causes of our problems, and think of practical and realistic solutions to them. It's not 'their' problem, or 'their' fault. There is no 'them.' There is only 'us.' So what are WE going to do to make OUR country a better place?

      GoldenTeacher - 2011-12-23 09:42

      Well Andries, I cannot claim to have solutions. All I can say is that I, like you, have a desire for solutions. My post was an attempt to incite anyone who reads it to perhaps think differently about the situation than they currently might do. What you claim to be 'stating the obvious' might not be obvious to everyone. As far as identifying causes of our current problems, the divisions in our society is definitely one of them. While I would agree that many people still operate from within a us/them dichotomy, trying to change this would certainly help. Any solution to our current problems is going to have to take the form of real group action, not the frustrated commentary we make in cyberspace on News24. And this action would be most effective if it crosses the divisions perpetuated in our society by ignorance and fear. Now whilst you might look to me to figure out solutions, this is not something I can do alone. You seem to be an intelligent fellow. So perhaps rather than making attempts at insulting me (calling me pious and dry), why not engage with me? Did you notice that the end of my post was precisely the question which you levelled at me? I honestly don't know what can be done. But I do know that if something is to be done effectively, we should engage with one another in a fruitful collaboration, rather than engage in a polemical debate in which one of us tries to distinguish himself as superior to the other.

  • mzolisi.vonqongo - 2011-12-22 11:14

    He don't have to blame christianity for the problems but He should blame people who misused christianity. However, It doesn't help to blame the past but what helps is what can we do now and stoping blaming the past as if we do not have agency especial our president Zuma. If you blame/touch christianity you are blaming/touching God himself and he is the God of grace and He is also a God of wrath. Let's never take the gospel of power in vain.

      Lionel - 2011-12-23 05:26

      He's just very bad at choosing his words: he forgets that one of the oldest Christian Churches is in Ethiopia: last time I looked, that was in Africa.

  • IR999 - 2011-12-23 06:37

    Where did African culture get the milk and cattle from ?

  • Blip - 2011-12-23 06:57

    JZ doesn't really care much for whites, for Christians, for gays, for poor people, for rugby and cricket and golf, for table-manners, for art or music, for pretty much anything that doesn't get his own sap rising.

  • Jannie - 2011-12-23 08:09

    Zuma = Moron = Iq of a Peanut

  • Johann - 2011-12-23 11:16

    Zuma is making a joke of him self...If it wasn't for the Christians that came to Africa, he wouldnt be wearing the suits...he wouldnt be living in the luxury homes...the government wouldnt have so much money to steal and use for their own benefit....

  • Dylan Mugabe - 2011-12-23 12:16

    I suppose he forgot about the thousands that die annually across Africa thanks to Muti killings. Last time I checked Christians weren't trading in human body parts.

  • hein.huyser - 2011-12-23 18:59

    The government doesn't live up to it's responsibility towards the elderly and the children and next Zuma blames their existence on Christianity. The even more scary part is that there are lots who believe him. It would be interesting to hear from Zuma what they actually did with the elderly and the orphans. Last time I checked they were expelled from the kraal and left to their own devices for survival. But then again, that was my Christian history books that taught me that, wonder what the un-Christian version is?

  • andy.robinson1 - 2011-12-24 01:36

    I get the point about community and extended family and I believe that we have done ourselves little favour by living in tiny family units. There are many benefits to living with extended family. I don't know the history of when and where though we began to break away to live apart from our families.

  • Cindy - 2011-12-24 07:59

    My parents were missionaries to SA. And let me tell you all that they offered their lives doing all the good they could for the African people, giving the clothes off their backs to them. They always lived a cheap frugal life so they could give more away to others. They were selfless loving caring people and upstanding real genuine Christians. It is so painful to see the hate towards missionaries by the people they offered their own lives up for. May God forgive this hatred. God is love. If their is hate towards anyone in your life, then God is not in your life. This applies to whites and blacks, anyone. Real Christianity is love.

      Susanna - 2011-12-31 08:58

      My grandparents were missionaries to Angola and what they did is still felt and appreciated generations later and I will never insult my ancestors unlike these new-found faithless people who should sit back and think about self-sacrifice and how the WHY fits into it.

  • Gavin - 2011-12-24 12:00

    You may not like Zuma or agree with him, but in my opinion, he isnt far off on his assessment of christianity. I would go one further and say all religions that dismiss logic and embrace some superhero in the sky are equally deluded and bad for your health. Like ciggies, religions should come with a health warning.

  • MattJLegg - 2012-01-03 15:22

    Romans 14:11 "Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

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