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South Africa News: Zuma bashes Christianity

South African president criticizes Christianity for bringing orphanages and old-age homes.
South africa zuma leopard skin 2011 12 22Enlarge
South African President Jacob Zuma, left, sings and dances with his newlywed Tobeka Madiba at their wedding ceremony on January 4, 2010 in a colourful Zulu traditional wedding outfit at Zuma's rural homestead of Nkandla, some 200 miles north of Durban. Wearing leopard skins and carrying a Zulu shield, South Africa's polygamous President Jacob Zuma on married today for fifth time, in a traditional ceremony in his remote hometown. (Rajesh Jantilal /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ah, Christmas! Just the time to attack Christianity for spawning the ills of modern South African society, or so thinks President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma's affection for African traditions in general and Zulu ones in particular is well known: When he's not busy marrying multiple wives he's dancing in a leopard skin. So it wasn't entirely surprising when he made a speech in defence of African traditions, but then he seemed to go a little off-message.

"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.

The outcry from church leaders was as loud as it was predictable and Zuma's people were quick to claim their man was quoted out of context.

Zuma was made pastor of a Gospel church in 2007. Paying lipservice to religious belief is a vote winner in South Africa — as it is in the US — but Zuma's comments give the lie to his 2007 move to be ordained as a pastor of a Gospel church.