The scientific world, paleontologists in particular, South African politicians and a large percentage of the public are hailing the Homo naledi fossil find as “remarkable” and “something South Africa should be proud of”.
It goes without saying, however, that there will be sceptics, as there always are. One of the sceptics is Dr. Mathole Motshekga (above), ANC MP, a former Premier of Gauteng and Executive Director of the Kara Heritage Institute.
While President Jacob Zuma, his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, several cabinet ministers, the Democratic Alliance, National Geographic and, of course, scientists involved in the project were in self-congratulatory mode on Thursday, Motshekga was not convinced. In fact, he challenged scientists to a debate over Homo naledi. He described the paleontology discovery to Die Burger newspaper as “pseudo-science, which seemed bent on trying to confirm that Africans is descendants of baboons.” He made it clear that it was his, and the Kara Foundation’s point of view, and not that of the ANC.
Motshekga said he did value scientists’ work, but that the Africa story could not be told by rocks and skulls only, and that more attention should be paid to antique literature, too.
Motshekga is no stranger to controversial statements. He earlier told the Parliamentary ad hoc committee on Nkandla, that in Zulu tradition, a kraal on Earth reflected a kraal in heaven. He also had some choice words for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who he described as “cowardly”.
It was not only Dr. Motshekga who had reservations about Homo naledi.
One social media posting suggested that “these people” found a “bunch of bones, nothing more”, then imagination took over and they tried to force-marry evidence with the evolution theory.
“We do not come from apes. This is either a human or [an] animal. Each creature was created according to its own kind. It really annoys me when they construct a whole creature from some bones that tell one nothing further about the discovery! Then they go on to construct a whole lifestyle,” the posting continued.