By now many following African politics have or should at this point know that Jacob Zuma is one of the most interesting African presidents on the continent who has a habit for saying some of the most mouth dropping comments on just about any subject. Known for being a staunch “traditionalist” and or as viewed by most, a male chauvinist of the highest order due his tally of wives and restrictive views on women and more, Zuma has recently fed the South African press another grabbing headline by saying it is un-African to have pet dogs. Depending on ones’ upbringing, the merits of his statements could be argued at length but in a nation with a fragmented national identity, it calls into question what it means to be African in post apartheid South Africa as white and black South Africans struggle to find a common ground. It’s interesting that, Zuma does not heap the criticisms on white South Africans but specifically, black South Africans. Do you agree with Zuma, or is the question of taking care of one’s pet just a matter of economic stability?
South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, has declared that having a pet dog is not African, and that black South Africans who buy a dog, take it for walks and to the veterinarian are copying white culture.
Mr Zuma, 70, was speaking at a traditional event in KwaZulu-Natal province, his first public appearance since being re-elected president of the African National Congress a week ago.
He described people who love dogs more than humans as “having a lack of humanity”, Durban newspaper The Mercury reported.
Black South Africans should stop adopting the habits of other cultures, Mr Zuma told an audience of thousands on Wednesday: “Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white.”
Mr Zuma, a proud Zulu who adheres to traditional practices such as polygamy, said in an August interview that it was “not right” for women to be single, and that having children is “extra training for a woman”.
In November, he endorsed traditional courts in South Africa, saying that problems should be resolved “the African way, not the white man’s way”.
On Twitter, some black South Africans responded to Mr Zuma’s latest comments by posting photos of themselves being “un-African” by walking their dogs.
Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of ANC alliance partner Cosatu, a trade union federation, posted a photograph of himself holding his Jack Russell named Maradona, while standing next to his Boerboel named Superhero.
A photo by the late, legendary photographer Alf Kumalo making the rounds shows Nelson Mandela playing with his dog outside his home in Soweto, a few years before he was sent to prison.
A spokeswoman for South Africa’s national SPCA said care given to animals also benefited people: “We cannot have compassion for animals if we do not have compassion for children and the elderly.”
Mr Zuma’s office said the message of the speech “was the need to decolonise the African mind post-liberation”.
“This is not to say that animals should not be loved or cared for. The message merely emphasised the need not to elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings,” a statement said.