Spear divides ANC

2012-05-27 10:00
Mandy Rossouw, Carien du Plessis and Sabelo Ndlangisa
The nation was skewered on The Spear and the ANC was divided

The ANC’s call for a boycott of City Press has divided the party.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week called on all South Africans to boycott the paper following the publication of Brett Murray’s controversial painting, The Spear.

Mantashe’s call came in a week during which the ANC and President Jacob Zuma took City Press and Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery to court over the painting, which depicts Zuma with his “genitals” exposed.

Also this week, the painting was defaced by two men who entered the gallery on Tuesday and smeared paint all over it.

City Press was summoned before the Film and Publication Board this week as the nation’s censors tried to decide whether or not to classify Murray’s work as pornography.

The ANC has organised a march to the Goodman Gallery on Tuesday, and trade union federation Cosatu has said that its members will join in.

Mantashe’s call was supported by SACP general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, and the National Union of Mineworkers.

The latter went as far as banning delegates at its congress, held this week, from speaking to a City Press reporter.

Yesterday in Durban, protesters from the ANC, SACP and Cosatu called for the painting to be banned and burned copies of City Press that featured the painting.

Contacted about the burning of the newspapers, Mantashe said he did not know about the incident and could not comment.

The ANC followed Mantashe’s call with a statement urging advertisers to join the boycott. But there is huge unhappiness within the ANC structures from leaders who believe a boycott takes the issue too far.

City Press canvassed 17 leaders in the governing ANC, alliances, provinces and leagues who said this week that they would not boycott the paper. All refused to be named.

“I will buy two copies openly, not on the sly,” said a member of the ANC national executive committee, who also serves in government.

Some ANC members have openly criticised their party’s boycott call.

Nomfanelo Kota, press attaché at the South African mission in New York, posted on Facebook: “I don’t see what revolutionary cause will be achieved by not reading the City Press. The ANC taught me to be critical.

Re-educate me if you want to convince me.”

She continued: “I have never followed blindly in all my years in the ANC. I don’t believe that the ANC can be threatened by newspapers, otherwise it would mean these 100 years of our movement and its values
meant nothing.”

Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has emerged as a somewhat unlikely supporter of South African media.

The ANC’s “voice of reason is disappearing” and none of its members appear to have “the courage to stand up and speak against undemocratic and potentially despotic practices” within the party, Malema warned in an open letter of today’s newspaper.

The controversy raised questions over what happened to the national dialogue on cultural values announced by Zuma in February 2010, shortly after admitting to having fathered a baby with Sonono Khoza, to whom he wasn’t married.

In the presidency’s budget speech in May, Zuma said the “national dialogue” would be held on July 29.

Zizi Kodwa, who was his spokesperson at the time, said the project was given to the department of justice because it involved human rights, but justice spokesperson Tlali Tlali referred queries back to the presidency.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said he didn’t know anything about the project.

Youth league spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy said the decision to boycott City Press wasn’t taken by the party’s structures.

“There was no decision to boycott and we feel there should have been a thorough process. It would be a good space to talk about what should be the role of the media.”

Spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Castro Ngobese, posted several messages on his Facebook page saying he would not boycott City Press.

An ANC leader from Gauteng said he didn’t support the publishing of the picture, but the call for the boycott was wrong.

“How can he (Zuma) drag the entire 999 999 members to the court over a single man’s penis?” he asked.

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said he didn’t want to comment on the boycott.

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