Circumstances, Not Practice of Slaughter Probed, says SPCA
Vusumuzi Ka Nzapheza
Yengeni not singled out, says organisation
The storm raging over former ANC chief whip and convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni's slaughtering of a bull and two sheep is refusing to die down, with the SPCA charging that the public debate about its investigation into the matter is misdirected.
The SPCA is investigating complaints from the public of cruelty to an animal, a criminal offence under the Animal Protection Act. While some have alleged cruelty to animals, others bemoaned insensitivity to cultural practices.
SPCA chief executive Allan Perrins said they recognised the validity of ritual slaughter.
"The SPCA's concern is the manner in which the animals are handled and treated before the slaughter. The circumstances under which this animal was slaughtered, and not the practice of animal slaughter, is the focus of our investigation," Perrins said.
He added that Yengeni was not being singled out because of his public profile.
"We have a team of 16 inspectors investigating 1 500 cases per month. We certainly are not singling out Yengeni on any basis (other) than the incident in question," he said.
Furious debates have played in the media since the weekend ritual when Yengeni speared a bull at his parents' Gugulethu home before it was slaughtered during a cleansing ceremony for the four months he spent in Malmesburg Prison for defrauding parliament.
The SA Human Rights Commission said the allegations against Yengeni could not be dealt with merely by using criminal law.
Commission chairman Jody Kollapen urged the SPCA to engage in a public debate on issues relating to culture and cultural liberty and their mandate to prevent cruelty to animals.
"The commission's perspective is that one cannot take a simplistic approach to matters such as these. It goes to the heart of how people define themselves and how we construct our identity," he said.
Ministry of Arts and Culture spokesman Sandile Memela said it was the constitutional right of all indigenous families and groups to perform rituals that they believed reconnected them to their ancestors.
"This is to promote peace of mind and harmonious existence in their lives. The Ministry of Arts and Culture upholds the constitutional rights of people to practise their culture.
"We wish to encourage the people of this 'nation-in-the-making' to accept that we live in a multicultural and diverse society which continues to be characterised by differences in how we do things," he said.
Western Cape Traditional Healers Association chairman Sobantu Kubukile said the ritual was conducted correctly.
"The animal must bellow to show acceptance (by the ancestors). If it does not, it cannot be slaughtered," Kubukile said.
The SPCA will have to charge Yengeni's Amamfene clan as well, he said, as he was fulfilling their cultural rites.
Memela said it was strange that it was not considered abnormal when Muslims and Jews conducted their rituals by killing animals to make their meat halaal and kosher.
"But, in the case of the Yengeni family, we observe selective racism that condemns this African ritual. What compounds the situation is that the levelled criticism is based on ignorance, contempt and lack of respect for African culture."
He added that the matter was complex and sensitive, and needed tolerance.
SPCA chief inspector Andries Venter said there were "humane" ways to kill an animal which minimised the pain.
Today's IOL poll question: Is Tony Yengeni's ritual bull slaughter being unfairly highlighted because of his high profile?
With acknowledgement to Vusumuzi Ka Nzapheza and Cape Times.