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Jacob Zuma

The recent tragic capitulation of the right to freedom of expression by the City Press marks a dramatic turning point for both freedom of expression and speech in South Africa. On Monday City Press editor Ferial Haffajee wrote “Out of care and as an olive branch to play a small role in helping turn around a tough moment, I have decided to take down the image.” [0] Haffajee’s decision was motivated largely by fear as a result of hostile threats and public intimidation by the African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe [1] and the call by ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu for ANC members to boycott the City Press [2].

Haffajee acknowledges this in her letter by saying “Of course, the image is coming down from fear too. I’d be silly not to admit that. The atmosphere is like a tinderbox: City Press copies went up in flames on Saturday; I don’t want any more newspapers burnt in anger.” Haffajee said she was personally insulted, newspaper vendors were intimidated and a journalist was evicted from a conference. [3]

Brett Murray - Hail to the Thief II

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The ANC has repeatedly stated that the painting has divided the nation along racial lines. Truth be told, the painting has done no such thing! On the contrary, it has been used by the ANC to further divide our nation, black against white. The artist Brett Murray has repeatedly been called a racist, despite his emphatic denial. [4]

It doesn’t matter if he isn’t really a racist. Repeatedly stereotyping Murray as a racist, simply because his painting of Jacob Zuma offended conservative sensabilities, has bolstered both Mthembu and Mantashe’s campaign of intimidation and threat against the City Press and the Goodman Gallery. Both continue to capitalise on the responding outrage expressed by ANC cadres willing to defend Jacob Zuma’s dignity against a perceived act of hatred against black people in this country.

Jackson Mthembu has claimed the ANC organized protest march to the Goodman Gallery on Tuesday would be used to “advance the need for unity as a nation and to register a need for common and acceptable values.” The only value being “registered” by the ANC here is that ‘might makes right’; that conservative black partriarchy will not tolerate diversity, creative expression or dissent.

Mosiuoa Lekota, president of the Congress of the People is reported as saying “the owner of the Goodman Gallery had been dragged before TV sets to issue an apology under military-like supervision”…”When the ruling party, ie the government, frog-marches a citizen in this way, as the Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile did, and threatens to unleash mass force on society, the Constitution is thrown out of the window.” [5]

Brett Murray - Hail to the Thief II

Far from uniting our nation on commonly held values of ethical principal or morality, the ANC’s actions have deeply polarized a nation in which race is deliberately being used to promote antagonism and hatred between black and white South Africans. The real debate is not about defending the dignity of the President at all. In its racist rant against Murray the ANC has succeeded in diverting attention away from the real debate, so aptly entitled ‘Hail to the Thief II’. Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perception index ranked South Africa at 64 out of 183 countries. [6]

The ANC government, under Jacob Zuma’s Presidency, has repeatedly failed to resolve the systemic causes of massive service delivery protests, unemployment, crime and corruption within the civil service. [7]

Let’s not forget that Zuma himself once faced 783 counts of fraud, racketeering, tax evasion and corruption, charges mysteriously dropped in order for him to be elected President. Under the ANC government the abuse of public office for private gain has become a pandemic. [8] Election promises have not materialized. 16 years of ANC democracy has left the masses bereft of hope for a better tomorrow. Is there really no evidence to warrant justifiable satire here?

Brett Murray - 'The Spear'

The Film and Publication Board too is being manipulated by the ANC to further intimidate the Goodman Gallery into removing a photograph of The Spear from its website. [9] Though the Board admits that it does not have the legal jurisdiction to classify any content published or broadcast by media outlets, [10] it has expressed its intention to classify the photograph of the painting on the gallery’s website and to possibly refer complaints against the City Press’s initial report on the exhibition to the Press Ombudsman. [11]

Since the painting is intended to stimulate intellectual debate, not sexual interest, ‘The Spear’ can not reasonably be classified by the Board as pornography, but this is what the ANC wants the board to do. Nothing should prevent the re-election of Jacob Zuma to a second term as President of the ANC, even if the nation he governs after Mangaung is completely disfigured by deliberate deception, false accusation and politically motivated violence.

The Goodman Gallery has to date refused to remove ‘The Spear’ from its website. Even if Murray’s entire collection were removed by force or law, it’s viral reproduction and republication globally can and will never be recalled or restricted. Despite having reached an out-of-court settlement with the Goodman Gallery yesterday, [12] the ANC has not succeeded in its expensive and fruitless bid to censor either Brett Murray or the Goodman Gallery.

I take my hat off to Goodman Gallery director Liza Essers for bravely standing her ground and defending freedom of expression. I bow to a great artist, Brett Murray, whose painting ‘The Spear’, despite having been defaced, [13] will be remembered in the annuls of art history as the catalyst to a victory against censorship in South Africa.

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Jacob Zuma’s spear however has succeeded in dividing a once proud nation! When you’re done gloating over the canvas, turn off the light.

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[0] The Spear is down – out of care and fear
28 May 2012
http://www.citypress.co.za/SouthAfrica/News/The-Spear-is-down-out-of-care-and-fear-20120528

[1] ANC brands Zuma painting racist
22 May 2012
http://www.citypress.co.za/SouthAfrica/News/ANC-brands-Zuma-painting-racist-20120521-2

[2] Gallery refuses to remove ‘spear of the nation’ artwork
17 May 2012 | Matthew Burbidge
http://mg.co.za/article/2012-05-17-anc-irate-over-spear-of-the-nation-artwork

[3] Mixed media response to City Press decision
29 May 2012
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Mixed-media-response-to-City-Press-decision-20120529

[4] I am not a racist, artist Brett Murray says
25 May 2012
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/I-am-not-a-racist-artist-Brett-Murray-says-20120525

[5] Lekota accuses ANC of fascist tactics
29 May 2012
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/Lekota-accuses-ANC-of-fascist-tactics-20120529

[6] Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perception index
http://archive.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010

[7] Cosatu and corruption, the phantom menace
2 February 2012 | Osiame Molefe
http://dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2012-02-02-cosatu-and-corruption-the-phantom-menace

[8] The Impact Of Corruption On Governance And Socio-Economic Rights
http://www.casac.org.za/?wpfb_dl=71

[9] Comment by Film and Publication Board on ‘The Spear’
As reported on ENews Channel on Tuesday 29 May 2012

[10] Spear spat not over, says FPB
29 May 2012
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Not-over-says-FPB-ombud-to-hear-Spear-complaints-20120529

[11] Goodman Gallery – Brett Murray / Hail to the Thief II
http://www.goodman-gallery.com/exhibitions/265

[12]  Settlement agreement for ANC, gallery
30 May 2012
http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/settlement-agreement-for-anc-gallery-1.1307759

[13] Art is dead! Long live Jacob Zuma’s penis!
23 May 2012
http://www.penton.co.za/?p=2249

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