Monday, December 7, 2009

The Bull Debate

For those of you who don’t know there was a debate over culture versus cruelty and it seems the poor Bull lost. I personally abhor the savage cruelty used to kill this poor animal but then that’s just my opinion


Justice Malala: The bull is now dead. In the aftermath of the noise and the anger in the week prior to his slaughter, I wish to speak for the dead bull


The bull is now dead. In the aftermath of the noise and the anger in the week prior to his slaughter, I wish to speak for the dead bull. Most importantly, though, I wish to speak for a sad, disintegrating and swiftly disappearing ANC.
On Saturday in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, President Jacob Zuma and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini led the Ukweshwama ritual in which young men killed a bull with their bare hands. The killing of the bull was to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest. The strength of the dying bull, it is believed, would be transferred to the king.
The problem with the debate, if one can call the insults that were hurled after the organisation Animal Rights for Africa brought a court application to have the ceremony stopped because it believed the killing of the bull was cruel, is that it is framed incorrectly.
By Friday, the noise that persisted was about black versus white, European versus African, colonialist versus "freedom fighter".
In truth, the debate should be about what is right and wrong in a new and liberated South Africa. It is about what carves a path for us into the future as a nation.
Firstly, the bull should not be killed in such a manner.
The pummelling with fists until an animal dies cannot but be cruel and painful. None of us should stand for cruelty meted out in the name of culture. Or because the Spanish also kill their bulls cruelly. I do not measure myself by the lowest standards, but by the highest.
The argument put forward was that this bull must suffer because my ancestors made animals suffer. The argument is, with all due respect, stupid: my ancestors had not read the work of JM Coetzee and were not on Facebook. I know that I know more than they did, and that my practices must of necessity differ with theirs.
What is surprising is to see the ANC, the party of progress for 98 years in South Africa, falling into the backwardness of support for superstition and cruelty to animals in the name of culture and tradition.
"The slaughtering of cattle carries a particular significance in African culture, as it does in many other countries in the world," wrote Zizi Kodwa, Zuma's spokesman in the ANC.
"The disrespect and contempt for African culture and traditions demonstrated by the debate that continues to ensue in our public discourse demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of those who have anointed themselves voices of reason. This is reminiscent of the arrival of the European settlers on our shores who declared that our people were barbaric heathens who needed to be civilised."
Kodwa is ignoring a crucial point: is the practice itself cruel or not? Does the fact that we have practised it for so long make it right? Why not kill this bull swiftly?
At the conference of the precursor to the ANC Youth League, the SA Youth Congress, in KaNyamazane in 1990, one matter obsessed the delegates.
Clause 10 of the Aims and Objectives of the draft Constitution proclaimed that one of the goals of the organisation's members was to "fight all forms of superstition".
The delegates from Polokwane had a problem with this clause. In their view "witchcraft existed" and they had "every right to burn alleged witches", as indeed many were doing.
Many of the other delegates pointed out that in fact, viewed scientifically, no such thing as witchcraft could possibly exist.
The ANC of today seems to be travelling backwards to beliefs in superstition, such as witchcraft. It is an ANC in denial of progress, in denial of the science that leaders such as Blade Nzimande claim to follow in terms of Marxist-Leninist writings.
This is the ANC that Kader Asmal correctly pointed out is gripped by "low level decision-making".
This is the debate that should be raging inside the ANC itself. The question asked should be: what does the ANC want?
Does it want to take over where the cultural chauvinism of the Inkatha Freedom Party left off, or does it want to be the party of Pixley ka Seme - discarding the incoherent in our cultures and embracing the progressive?
Clearly for Zuma, who has morphed into a latter-day Zulu monarchist modelled on the Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the 1980s, the answer is only one. He is taking the ANC back to beliefs such as those shown outside his trial in Pietermaritzburg: the burning of incense for luck, the killing of bulls to strengthen kings - and what else? The burning of witches?
I have spoken for the bull. I mourn for an ANC that has abandoned science for superstition.