'Zuma’s dog comments were eloquent'

The ANC says reports about Jacob Zuma's comments about caring for dogs hamper transformation debates.

President Jacob Zuma as pictured on 29 November 2012. Picture: Elmond Jiyane

JOHANNESBURG - The ANC chief whip's office on Friday accused the media of hampering a national debate in the wake of criticism against President Jacob Zuma's comments about caring for dogs.

During a speech in Impendle in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday, Zuma reportedly said that buying a dog, taking it to a vet and walking it belonged to "white" culture.

Social networks were abuzz with comments opposing his statement.

The ANC's Moloto Mothapo said media reports were trying to distract South Africans from having a real debate about transformation.

"The issues of race relations, national pride, national identity, culture and ubuntu that the president so eloquently spoke about require a united effort from all of us."

The Presidency on Thursday echoed Mothapo's sentiments, saying the media's coverage of Zuma's speech was "unfortunate".

"It is unfortunate that the journalists concerned chose to report the comments in a manner that seeks to problematise them instead of promoting a debate about deconstruction and decolonisation of the mind as part of promoting reconciliation, nation building, unity and social cohesion."

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj in a statement said Zuma was simply trying to promote Ubuntu and decolonise the African mind.

He said Zuma wanted "to enable the previously oppressed African majority to appreciate and love who they are and uphold their own culture".

Maharaj said Zuma was encouraging South Africans to not adopt practices "detrimental to building a caring African society."

"The President in his wide-ranging address referred to what people should guard against, such as loving animals more than other human beings. 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."

Maharaj said Zuma's comments were not to say animals should not be adored or cared for.

"The message merely emphasised the need not to elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings."