South Africa president prefers people over pets

President Jacob Zuma made critical remarks about pet care that touch on sensitive race relations in South Africa, which was dominated by whites until apartheid was dismantled almost two decades ago

Young women walk pass a mural depicting former South African President Nelson Mandela at Alexandra township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. South Africa's presidency says former President Nelson Mandela is suffering from a recurring lung infection and is responding to treatment. The statement Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 from presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon is "receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment." (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's president says a dog should not be man's best friend.

President Jacob Zuma made critical remarks about pet care that touch on sensitive race relations in South Africa, which was dominated by whites until apartheid was dismantled almost two decades ago, The Star newspaper reported Thursday.

The newspaper cited Zuma as saying in a speech Wednesday that the idea of having a pet is part of "white culture" and that people should focus on family welfare. The president's office sought to clarify his remarks, saying he was encouraging "the previously oppressed African majority" to uphold its own culture. It also suggested the way in which the comments were reported, rather than the comments themselves, was divisive.

The backdrop to the dog debate is the legacy of Western colonialism in Africa, as well as the bitter struggle against apartheid in South Africa that culminated in the first democratic elections in 1994. Nelson Mandela, now 94 years old and ailing, became the country's first black president as well as a symbol of reconciliation among all South Africans, though poverty and economic imbalances remain a source of deep strain in the nation of 50 million.

During his speech to an appreciative crowd in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma's home province, the president said people who love dogs more than people have a "lack of humanity" and that some people are trying in vain to "emulate whiteness," The Star reported.

"Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair, you will never be white," he reportedly said.

In a statement, the South African presidency said Zuma was trying to convince Africans to take pride in their heritage and not feel pressure to adopt customs of minority cultures. Animals can be cared for, was the message, but not at the expense of people.

Zuma "referred to what people should guard against, such as loving animals more than other human beings," the statement said. "He made the well-known example of people who sit with their dogs in front in a van or truck with a worker at the back in pouring rain or extremely cold weather. Others do not hesitate to rush their dogs to veterinary surgeons for medical care when they are sick while they ignore workers or relatives who are also sick in the same households."

Zuma has often said he seeks to protect South Africa's diversity and unify its disparate groups, but he has occasionally stirred controversy. In 2006, as deputy president, he said same-sex marriages, which are today protected under South African law, were "a disgrace to the nation and to God."

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Join the Conversation!

While WVLT allows comments on articles, we ask that you respect the online community. Comments may be removed at any time for violations including:

  • Obscenity, profanity, vulgarity, racism, violent descriptions, name-calling or personal attacks.
  • Abuse of multiple accounts.
  • Off-topic comments.

Comments may be checked for inappropriate content or rule violation, but the station is under no legal obligation to monitor or remove comments. If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator. 
Flagging does not guarantee removal.

powered by Disqus

WVLT VOLUNTEER TV

6450 Papermill Drive Knoxville, TN 37919 Phone - (865) 450-8888; Fax - (865) 450-8869
Copyright © 2014 WVLT-TV Inc. - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 184956721 - local8now.com/a?a=184956721
Gray Television, Inc.