UKWESHWAMA -THE FIRST FRUITS FESTIVAL, KILLING OF THE BULL
Justice Malala wrote every eloquently on the slaughter of the bull during last year’s Ukweshwama ritual, in which young men killed a bull with their bare hands. The killing of the bull was to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest. The strength of the dying bull, it is believed, would be transferred to the king.
He makes it very clear that the aftermath, resulting from the ARA’s attempt to have the ritual halted through a court of law, ended up as a free-for-all about black versus white, European versus African, colonialist versus “freedom fighter”.
And in the furor everyone forgot about the bull.
There is no way that a bull killed by hand, by beating with fists and all the other terrible, terrible things that were done to him, can take bare minutes to die, as noted by Chief Mlaba saying “We must use our bare hands, It’s cruelty, we agree, but it’s our culture. We cannot change our culture.” and goes on to say “For 40 minutes, dozens trampled the bellowing, groaning bull, wrenched its head around by the horns to try to break its neck, pulled its tongue out, stuffed sand in its mouth and even tried to tie its penis in a knot. Gleaming with sweat, they raised their arms in triumph and sang when the bull finally succumbed.”
This is in direct contradiction to Professor Jabulani Mapalala who said in court that the animal’s death was quick, unpainful and that no blood was shed. Blood or not, the death is anything but swift and free from pain!
The cultural defense that the bull must suffer because ancestors made animals suffer is irrelevant in a society where people live a life completely different to their ancestors and furthermore we know now that animals suffer at the hands of humankind, and suffer immensely. If the bull must die (and of course our stance is that it is never acceptable to kill anyone, except in self-defense) why may he not be slaughtered swiftly, with the least amount of pain? Why must cruelty be the defining issue of loyalty to the king or the success of the ritual?
Of course, it is rather odd that people can get so irate about the killing of one bull in a traditional ceremony when thousands of animals are raised and then killed in atrocious circumstances on a daily basis to satisfy the average person’s desire to eat meat. And that has been one of the arguments in favour of the ceremony. We cannot argue against this, the difference of course is that this happens in public view, well the invited few, at any rate, while the circumstances of factory farming and the subsequent slaughter, which applies equally to those living ‘free range’, are kept well hidden from public view and scrutiny.