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Site Last Update: 09 Dec, 2019
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African Proverb of the Month
Nov, 2007

Kushayw'edonsayo. (Zulu).

The lead cow (the one in front) gets whipped the most. (English)


Zulu (South Africa, Swaziland) Proverb

Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

When they plough the fields, usually using four or six oxen, farmers choose a lead cow. This lead cow is in the front so she can make sure that the rest follow her and that everything is done just right. The farmers watch her the most, and if anything goes wrong, she, and not so much the rest, always gets the whipping.

This Zulu proverb reflects the idea that whoever does the most difficult job gets blamed for everything that goes wrong on the job. It does not matter if she or he is the actual culprit. So the teaching of this South African and Swaziland proverb is that the most pressure is on the leader(s).


Biblical Parallels

Moses was a humble, godly 80-year-old servant. He did everything as right as he could between God and humans. Through his obedience, and by faith, He successfully led the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. That in itself was a miracle. Many miracles followed the Israelites, but they easily forgot and disobeyed God. Moses would ask God to forgive them and all would be fine. Soon they would murmur Exodus 16:2 and murmur Exodus 16:12 and murmur Exodus 17:3. It got to Moses' nerves one day. He was so angry that he struck the rock twice, instead of once as the Lord had said. The result was Numbers 20:12:"But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.'"

That brings to mind the verse: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" (Luke 12:48). It seems like Moses was expected to be spiritual all the time

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

Following the meaning of this Zulu Proverb most of the pressure is on leader(s) whether it be in government, business, the church, and society in general. In our society today there is a lot of murmuring and condemnation of those in leadership. Even in our churches the pastor and other leaders get a lot of criticism. People tend to miss their past bondages and refuse to accept change. Before murmuring why not pray for your leaders according to 1 Timothy 2:1-4? Before murmuring why not trust God the Omniscient?


Mrs. Jani Carter (uMaMhlongo)

828 Mechanic Street

Emporia, KS 66801 USA

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