President Jacob Zuma
President Jacob Zuma

Zuma’s comment on women slammed

By Time of article published Dec 20, 2013

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Bongani Hans

DURBAN: President Jacob Zuma says that if he was not already married to his four wives, he would marry a Venda woman “because they even lie down to show respect for other people”.

He was addressing hundreds of people in Impendle in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands this week where he emphasised the importance of respect. Zuma said young women and men must exercise self-respect and respect for others.

“When I was in Venda recently I was so impressed to see how people there express respect for other people,” he said. “A woman would clap her hands and even lie down to show respect. I was so impressed. If I was not already married to my wives I would go to Venda to look for a woman,” he said.

The event had been organised by the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, South African Social Security Agency and the provincial treasury.

But his comments were criticised by the Eastern Cape-based Support Centre, which deals with women’s rights. Support Centre co-ordinator Phumla Ndende said that before he “appreciated” a culture, Zuma should first assess if that culture was not oppressing women.

“If you express respect in such a way that you even lie down it means you are scared of the person you are respecting,” she said. “Even the practice of women kneeling in front of their husband is not acceptable. This means Zuma is over-expecting respect from women, which is a gesture of undermining their rights.”

Zuma said during a similar event last year in Impendle that 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.

Zuma said he also found men in Venda using the same gesture to express respect.

Dr John Mphaphuli, an anthropologist from Unisa, agreed, and said that men and women used the same gesture towards each other. However, he said it would be wrong of Zuma to marry someone just so they would get respect because marriage should be about love.

Attempts to get comment from Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, were unsuccessful.

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