The ANC leader, who was ordained as a priest of the Full Gospel Church, in KwaZulu-Natal in 2007, said yesterday that the arrival of Christianity brought problems for Africans.
“As Africans, long before the arrival of religion and [the] gospel, we had our own ways of doing things.
“Those were times that the religious people refer to as dark days but we know that, during those times, there were no orphans or old-age homes. Christianity has brought along these things,” he said.
Zuma was speaking at KwaMaphumulo, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, during the launch of a road safety and crime awareness campaign.
It is not the first time that Zuma has raised eyebrows with his comments on religion.
In June this year he was forced to apologise to the SA Council of Churches for “misusing” Jesus’ name during the local government elections campaign.
As the ANC prepares to celebrate its centenary, Zuma’s statements fly in the face of the ruling party’s rich history of association with the churches.
The ANC was formed in 1912 at the Dutch Reformed Church in Waaihoek, Bloemfontein, and its founding president, Dr John Langalibalele Dube, was a priest.
Yesterday, African Christian Democratic Party leader the Rev Kenneth Meshoe lambasted Zuma and said his comments were “hypocritical”.
“Firstly, the president needs to be rebuked for hypocrisy because for him to blame Christianity when he knows churches were at the forefront of the struggle is disappointing,” Meshoe said, “and he knows that what he said is not true, having claimed to be a Christian himself.
“Secondly, during elections he doesn’t run to the graveyards to get votes from the ancestors, but he runs to churches.”
On the “orphanages” and “old- age homes” issues, taught children to look after their parents.
“It is ridiculous for the President to make such suggestions. It’s tantamount to foolishness to blame old-age homes on Christianity. In fact we teach children to take care of elders. We teach them against ‘dumping’ of parents at old-age homes.”
Yesterday, Zuma said it was crucial that South Africans return to the “old days of doing things” because the modern way had caused problems in society.
“We have passed laws that prohibit you as a parent [from using] corporal punishment. Today, when, as a parent, you bring your child [to] order by using corporal punishment, you are breaking the law, but the person who passed that law cannot raise your child the way you want to.
“I am not blaming such legislation but I can’t be diplomatic about this. It’s a fact,” Zuma said.
Jacob Zuma ‘Fathers 20th Child With Friend’s Daughter’
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, is reported to have has fathered a 20th child with the daughter of a friend.
His latest offspring, a girl, was reported on Sunday to have been born in October to Sonono Khoza, 39, the divorced daughter of Irvin Khoza, according to the country’s Sunday Times newspaper. Mr Khoza is the chairman of the organising committee for the football World Cup finals to be held in South Africa later this year.
The newspaper said the girl’s name was registered as Thandekile Matina Zuma.
Mr Zuma, 67, is a proud Zulu traditionalist, and as well as his polygamy – he married his third current wife and fifth overall, Thobeka Madiba, earlier this month – he has had a number of children out of wedlock.
In all, he has had children by seven women.
The paper said that the Khoza family were not happy about the liaison – Mr Khoza is six years younger than the president – and a delegation from the president had visited them to discusss inhlawulo, the customary Zulu damages payable when a child is born out of wedlock.
Last week Mr Zuma defended himself against accusations that polygamy was “a step backward” or unfair to women in a discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“People interpret cultures in different ways,” he said. “Some think that their culture is superior to others, that’s a problem we have in the world.”
In South Africa, he went on, “we follow a policy that says you must respect the cultures of others. That’s my culture. It does not take anything from me, from my political beliefs and everything, including the belief on the equality of women”.
Mr Zuma’s personal life is not an issue for most South Africans. But Helen Zille, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, said that it was counterproductive given the country’s fight against HIV-Aids.
“There are some people who may argue that Jacob Zuma’s sex life is a matter of private morality or ‘culture’, but this is not so,” she claimed.
Pointing out that after his rape trial, when he was acquitted, he had apologised for having unprotected sex with the HIV-positive daughter of a family friend, she added: “He has once again succeeded in sending the wrong message to the South African people.”
Mr Zuma’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.