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Since South African President Jacob Zuma (pictured) declared publicly on Wednesday that having a pet dog is not African and Black South Africans who buy a dog and take it for walks are copying white culture, he has come under quite a bit of heat and has since backtracked from his heated accusations, the Mail & Guardian reports.

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Speaking at a traditional event in the KwaZulu-Natal province, his first public appearance since his re-election as President of the African National Congress a week ago, Zuma spoke passionately and deemed people who love dogs more than humans as “having a lack of humanity.”

The 70-year-old put out a call to his countrymen, warning them to put a stop to any assimilation practices, and to not “emulate whiteness” that would steer them away from their culture. “Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white,” Zuma admonished.

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A staunch traditionalist and a Zulu, Zuma has never strayed away from the very fundamental teachings of his culture. The polygamist leader also got into quite a stew last August when he declared that “it was not right” for women to be single and that having children “is extra training for a woman.”

On Thursday, a spokesperson from Zuma’s camp, Mac Maharaj, told the Mail & Guardian that the President was merely trying to “decolonize the African mind.”  Maharaj went on to state that Zuma only meant “to enable the previously oppressed African majority to appreciate and love who they are and uphold their own culture.”

Maharaj then went on to further defend his President’s incendiary comments by explaining, “What people should guard against, such as loving animals more than other human beings. He made the well-known example of people who sit with their dogs in front in a van [bakkie] or truck, with a worker at the back in pouring rain or extremely cold weather. Others do not hesitate to rush their dogs to veterinary surgeons for medical care when they are sick, while they ignore workers or relatives who are also sick in the same households.”

One thing the presidential spokesperson wanted to make crystal clear was that Zuma was absolutely not even remotely suggesting that animals “should not be loved or cared for.”  Maharaj wants it understood that Zuma’s message, in a nutshell, was that we should not “elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings.”

Maharaj was also not happy with the way the media ran with Zuma’s speech and had a few choice words for reporters.

“It is unfortunate that the journalists concerned chose to report the comments in a manner that seeks to problematize them, instead of promoting a debate about deconstruction and decolonization of the mind as part of promoting reconciliation, nation building, unity and social cohesion.”

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