Spending money on buying a dog, taking it to the vet and for walks belonged to white culture and was not the African way, which was to focus on the family, President Jacob Zuma said in a speech in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
There was a new generation of young Africans who were trying to adopt other lifestyles and even trying to look like others, he said.
“Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white,” Zuma said.
Instead, a person lost dignity and ubuntu, and was also likely to lose respect and love for his fellow human beings. He said black people should stop adopting the habits of other cultures.
Zuma described people who loved dogs more than people as “having a lack of humanity”.
As he talked, the audience of thousands—attending the annual commemoration of the induction of Inkosi Sibongiseni Zuma—laughed and applauded.
It was Jacob Zuma’s first public appearance since being re-elected ANC president in Mangaung a week ago.
On marital problems, Zuma said families should resolve issues instead of running to religious leaders. Young people should also respect each other, he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, the newly elected ANC treasurer-general, congratulated Zuma for taking the ANC through a “peaceful” conference.
“People had predicted that the ANC would be disrupted after this conference, but that did not happen,” he said.
Zuma said that every December 18 there would be a gathering in KwaNxamalala, near Impendle, where the youth would be educated about the importance of preserving African culture.
“We normally have this day (the commemoration) on December 26; from next year we are going to bring it forward to December 18. We need to use it to correct each other and protect our culture,” he said.
The president showered residents with gifts including groceries, wheelchairs, blankets and lawnmowers. One family was given a four-roomed house and a bed.
National SPCA spokeswoman Christine Kuch said she could not comment on Zuma’s statement as she had not heard him speak, but added that many South Africans felt deep compassion for their animals.
“We cannot have compassion for animals if we do not have compassion for children and the elderly,” she said.
Kuch said care given to animals, in most cases, benefited people.
“If donkeys are better cared for, they are in better condition to carry water or carry a child to school; when dogs are taken to vets for vaccination, it protects people. Caring for an animal and a person goes together.”
Zuma is known for making controversial comments. In an SABC3 television interview in August, he said it was “not right” for women to be single and that having children provided them with “extra training”.
He was speaking about his daughter Duduzile’s marriage, saying he was happy for her.
“I wouldn’t want to stay with daughters who are not getting married. You’ve got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother.”
In 2006, as the ANC deputy president, Zuma told an audience during Heritage Day celebrations in KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal that when he was growing up “an ungqingili (gay person) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out”.
Zuma later apologised unreservedly “for the pain and anger that my remarks may have caused”, adding that he did not intend his comments to be interpreted as homophobic.