South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, has declared having a pet dog is not African, and that black South Africans who buy a dog and take it for walks are copying white culture.
Mr Zuma, 70, was speaking at a traditional event in KwaZulu-Natal province, his first public appearance since being re-elected president of the African National Congress a week ago.
He described people who love dogs more than humans as "having a lack of humanity", Durban newspaper The Mercury reported.
Black South Africans should stop adopting the habits of other cultures, Mr Zuma told an audience of thousands on Wednesday: "Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white."
Mr Zuma, a proud Zulu who adheres to traditional practices including polygamy, said in November that he endorsed traditional courts in South Africa and that problems should be resolved "the African way, not the white man's way".
Some black South Africans responded to Mr Zuma's comments by posting photographs on Twitter of themselves walking their dogs.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the leader of Cosatu, a trade union federation which is a coalition partner of the ANC, posted a photograph of himself holding his Jack Russell while standing next to his Boerboel, a large, South African mastiff.
A picture by the late, celebrated photographer Alf Kumalo also being shown depicts Nelson Mandela playing with his dog outside his home in Soweto, a few years before he was sent to prison.
Mr Zuma's office said the message of the speech "was the need to decolonise the African mind post-liberation".
"The message merely emphasised the need not to elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings."
The Daily Telegraph, London