News / Africa

    Zuma Calls Dog Ownership 'Un-African'

    Anita Powell
    South African President Jacob Zuma prompted howls of controversy when he said in a recent speech that black people should not keep dogs as pets because it is "un-African." His speech was well-received by the audience in his home province, but it has landed him in the doghouse in the national media and prompted the presidency to issue a statement defending his comments, which they say have a deeper meaning.

    Zuma said earlier this week in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal that dog ownership was a hallmark of white culture and that people who love their dogs more than other people have a “lack of humanity.”

    Zuma has said many controversial things in the past. Earlier this year, he said that women should not be single and that motherhood is “extra training” for women. He also famously described same-sex marriage as “a disgrace to the nation and to God."

    But none of those pronouncements has brought out the claws like this one. Many South Africans, it seems, feel they have a dog in this fight.

    Twitter filings were instantly littered with proclamations of puppy love and photos of prominent black South Africans with their dogs. There was even an old photo of anti-apartheid icon and former president Nelson Mandela hugging what appeared to be an enormous Rhodesian ridgeback.

    More seriously, critics accused the president of race-baiting in a country that has for decades struggled with inequality and until the 1990s was under white minority rule.

    But for South African dog owners, the issue is not black or white.

    Winifred Sangcosi, a 57-year-old housekeeper in KwaZulu-Natal, sits on the committee of the Fundanenja Township Dog Training Initiative.

    Here’s what she thinks of Mr. Zuma’s remarks.

    “I must say, it’s wrong" she said. "Why, because, the dogs, is the part of the family.”

    At that, Sangcosi launched into an ode to Salon, her mixed-breed dog who kept her company for 16 years. Salon tirelessly followed her throughout the house and when she ran errands. She barked at strangers and welcomed friends. She was, in Sangcosi’s words, “a very good dog.”

    But presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj says Zuma’s comments are being incorrectly interpreted. It is not an attack on dogs, he says, but a defense of South African black culture, which has been ripped apart after decades of oppression.

    “He was not saying that animals should not be loved or cared for, but what he was saying is that we should not elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings," said Maharaj. "And he gave an example in this context. He said, “we see people even today, driving in a van or a truck with a dog in the front seat. And sitting in the back in the rain and the most cold weather, will be an African worker.’”

    Zuma’s comments don’t address what the nation is to do with its hordes of homeless animals.

    The National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals handled nearly 750,000 animals in South Africa last year - most of them dogs and cats - said executive director Marcelle Meredith. She says those animals are adopted by South Africans of all races.

    Meredith says the SPCA was “appalled” by Zuma’s statement, especially since the organization counts Mandela among its patrons.

    “We also don’t believe that there is any foundation or research or fact that has gone into the statement that he has made," said Meredith. As far as animals, we have many many people of color, not just black people, there are many people of color in our country, who come to our SPCAs to adopt animals, they take on animals, they attend dog shows, they display their animals and are very proud of having animals.”

    Zuma may have to take these jibes for a while, but it’s unlikely to challenge his status as head of the pack. Earlier this month, he was again elected as leader of the ruling African National Congress, a step that makes him a shoo-in for the presidency in 2014.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Losako Mpaka from: RDC
    January 05, 2013 1:33 PM
    Zuma first name is Jacob. His brothers first names are:Michael and Joseph. Two of his wives names are Gertrude and Gloria. Zuma's son first name is Edward. Those name are from Europeans who were our masters.And to glorified his master Zuma still keep the name Jacob and names his son Edward. Zuma believes in the bible and is protestant , therefore Zuma has rejected his ancestors believes. So, before talking about dog , I think that Zuma needs to know who really he is himslelf.
    Rabin Jacob, culturally you are a white man, as a black person you still have to get out of the frame that the white man framed you.,You have a white man name and you believe in the bible who was imposed to your ancesters by white man.

    by: Kanyiswa from: E Cape
    January 02, 2013 11:15 AM
    JZ once again INSISTS on remaining an ignorant, uneducated individual. He and the many others who try uselessly to defend his actions, are so obsessed with 'hanging onto African culture' that they are consciously chosing to ignore all else, even if it is for the greater good, even if the rest of the world considers it progress, or a better way of doing something! But yet they all drive big EUROPEAN cars, use WESTERN social media forums and clothe themselves in non-african wear.

    Give these neanderthals an island of their own and let them live in the past if that's what they so badly want - the rest of the world doesn't want or need their toxic influence! The ANC is hanging on by a thread and this is yet another desperate attempt to persuade us he's 'all for the African people' - no, you're not JZ and we are not as stupid as you think - we see what's going on and (thanks to 'western encouragement' to think for ourselves) we won't tolerate it for much longer.

    by: richardsm from: Dar es salaam
    December 29, 2012 2:57 PM
    I Agree with Zuma, is very right.... but the media (owned by white) have misunderstood the statement

    by: Samuel Slyme from: Cape Town
    December 28, 2012 3:24 PM
    Zuma is first and last an unregenerate Zulu traditionalist, a factional Zulu leader who managed to clinch the presidency of the country by political manipulation, intimidation and cheating. Just about everyone, except the most traditional and least educated among his own Zulu people, are laughing at his clumsy antics and waiting for Humpty Dumpty to fall. Something like 400 very serious charges of corruption were brought by the prosecuting authorities against him in 2008, which he managed to dodge by means which will soon be revisited by the courts. The charges may well be reinstated again, in which case his future looks bleak and the only term he will serve will not be a presidential terms, but a very lengthy term somewhere else.

    It would be a mistake for the international community to regard him as a popular leader among all South Africans, black or white, and to judge the country by his embarrassing behaviour. At least half the population despise him, and many more question his leadership.

    The USA had its Nixons and George W's. We have Jacob Zuma. Democracy can play strange tricks.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.