It was a dog-eat-dog world on Twitter on Thursday as people argued over President Jacob Zuma's comments that caring for a pet dog was part of “white” culture.
While a flurry of users seemed indignant that Zuma didn't name Jock of the Bushveld his favourite four-legged South African or ask Lassie to come home, many others agreed with the president's sentiments.
One user, YanelaJ, said Zuma's comments were accurate: “How many blacks vs whites do u c walking/running dogs..don't count domestic worker?”
Young Communist League spokesman Khaya Xaba tweeted that a “rich man's dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than do the workers upon whom the rich man's wealth is built.”
The Star reported on Thursday that Zuma, in a speech given at Impendle in KwaZulu-Natal, had said that spending money to buy a dog and taking it to the vet and for walks, belonged to “white” culture.
He was also reported to have said that those who loved dogs more than people had “a lack of humanity”.
The presidency later sent out a statement in which it explained that Zuma was only trying to “decolonise the African mind” with his statements.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said that Zuma wanted “to enable the previously oppressed African majority to appreciate and love who they are”.
Meanwhile on Twitter, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted a picture of himself with his Boerboel “Superhero” and his Jack Russell “Maradona”.
Some tweeters gently suggested that “Superhero” was a bit on the chubby side, but Vavi reassured his followers that he has managed to get the Boerboel's weight down since the photograph was taken.
Vavi also mentioned that he had given ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe a puppy years ago. “He keeps dogs too,” tweeted Vavi.
Nevertheless, Vavi said that he was not offended by Zuma's comments. “As an animal lover & proudly black I don't feel insulted by that comment - I do have compassion for humans too!!”
However, internationally renowned author Zakes Mda refuted the essentialism behind Zuma's statement.
“There are many ways of being African. Of being black even. Those who love animals are not less African than those who don't.”
Journalist Reuben Goldberg suggested that South Africans buy Zuma a dog “and name it #Nkandla”.
Even “Bazil the Bulldog” gave his opinion into the matter, tweeting: “Zuma needs a history check, as the Africanis breed of dogs have been the companions of Southern Africa's San Bushmen since 800 AD...”
Ayanda Mlotshwa questioned Zuma's linking of race and dog ownership, stating: “I'm black & I love my dog. He's part of my family. We've always had dogs in my family. Can't imagine life without them.”
A number of people also tweeted an old photograph of former president Nelson Mandela beaming alongside a jubilant canine companion.
The Christian Democratic party sent out a statement in which they said it appeared from his remarks that Zuma's second term would be “even more sectarian and divisive” than his first.
“This playing up of one culture against another, describing them, not as different, but rather that one has superior moral values to the other, is totally unacceptable and counterproductive,” said party leader Theunis Botha. - Sapa