Thursday, December 22, 2011

South African President Zuma's Christianity Comments 'Misinterpreted'

Zuma's Christianity comments 'misinterpreted'


Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj has rubbished media reports about President Jacob Zuma's comments on Christianity, saying they were misinterpreted by "city slicker" journalists.

"The president speaks in deep Zulu on occasion and his message is often lost in translation," Maharaj told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

The Times reported on Wednesday that Zuma had slated Christianity, saying it brought on the existence of orphans and old-age homes.

At a launch of a road and crime safety awareness campaign at KwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal, he was quoted as saying, "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.

"We have passed laws that prohibit you as a parent [from using] corporal punishment. Today, when, as a parent, you bring your child [to] order by using corporal punishment, you are breaking the law, but the person who passed that law cannot raise your child the way you want to."

Zuma said while he did not blame such legislation, "I can't be diplomatic about this. It's a fact."

Honorary pastor

Zuma, who in 2007 was ordained as a honorary pastor at a meeting of independent charismatic churches in Durban, told the crowd that South Africans should return to the "old way of doing things" because modernity had been harmful on society.

Maharaj said in a statement, "Zuma said that while we welcome the advent of Western culture, some useful traditional ways of doing things and aspects of African culture were undermined or even eroded, some of which were important for the cohesion of communities."

"The president indicated among other things that 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.

"He added that even poverty was an unknown factor as neighbours were always ready to assist each other, giving one another milk or cattle where needed," said Maharaj.

He said that it was "mischievous" to draw a conclusion that Zuma had rejected or negated Christianity. "The president was simply asserting African culture ... and lamenting the neglect of African culture."

Maharaj told the M&G the misunderstanding was indicative of the "differences" in South Africa's linguistic heritage.

"This is all about coming to terms with our multicultural society," he said.

Dominic Mahlangu, deputy editor of the Times, said they stood by their story.

"When the president switched from English to Zulu, our reporter, who is fluent in Zulu, quoted him directly. The statement isn't actually denying it, they just wanted to over-explain it," he said.

Zuma has long history of using religious terminology to promote the ANC.

At a rally in Mpumalanga in June 2009 Zuma said that the ANC "will rule until Jesus comes".

In February this year, Zuma caused outrage after he apparently tried to woo Eastern Cape voters for the local elections by telling them they would go to heaven if they voted for the ANC; and conversely would experience fiery damnation if they did not.

A Democratic Alliance transcript of Zuma's remarks during the voter registration drive in Mthatha claimed he 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.

"When you are carrying an ANC membership card, you are blessed. When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card; you will be let through to go to heaven."

At the time, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said that if the word "heaven" was inappropriate in a figurative sense, expressions such as 'marriage made in heaven', 'heavenly voices' and 'sweets from heaven' would not exist.

In December 2008, Zuma was compared to Jesus by Free State leader Ace Magashule, who said Zuma was suffering 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. He's not giving up."

At the time Zuma was involved in appealing with a Supreme Court of Appeal case where he was defending a high court ruling that saw graft charges dropped against him.

The ruling was later upheld.

Magashule said at the time he was not saying Zuma was Jesus. "He can't be Jesus. I merely compared the kind of persecution that had to be endured." -- additional reporting by Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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