The Spear: ANC still wants apology from City Press

2012-05-28 13:33
The ANC welcomed the removal of a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma from City Press’s website today, but still wants an apology, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu has said.

Its legal action in relation to the display of the painting would also go ahead, he said.

“We appreciate what has been done,” said Mthembu after City Press removed from its website an image of artist Brett Murray’s The Spear depicting Zuma with his genitals exposed.

“We appreciate that at least (City Press editor-in-chief) Ferial (Haffajee) is saying she can now understand the pain. All that we are saying to her, is can she apologise for the pain,” he said.

“Please apologise to the people of South Africa. This pain has been so deep seated.”

The apology should be made to the “people of South Africa, the ANC, and everybody”.

“If they made such an apology and removed the image it would go a long way.”

The ANC would also proceed with legal action to have the painting and images of it banned, so that it had clarity from the courts on what was acceptable in terms of the right to artistic expression and the right to human dignity, said Mthembu.

“The court must assist us (in showing) how far can those people go who are in the artistic environment (to) violate those rights of those human beings,” he said.

The remedy the ANC had asked for in the case may change, because it would be moot to order that the image be removed from City Press’s website, he said.

The original painting itself was defaced last week when two people painted over it.

“Is it lawful, or insulting? The court will advise,” said Mthembu.

The removal of the painting and the image, and an apology, was what the ANC sought from the start, he said.

Once Haffajee apologised, they would call off the boycott of City Press, called for by Minister of Higher Education and SA Communist Party secretary-general Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, last week.

“We will then call off the boycott,” he said.

Haffajee’s actions so far, and an apology in a letter to Zuma’s daughter Duduzile was not enough, he said.

An extract of the letter to Duduzile Zuma read: “I understand that what is a work of satire to me is a portrait of pain to you. I understand the impact on your little brothers and sisters, who may face teasing at school.

Playground cruelty leaves deep scars. And if they and your dad saw the work in our pages and it caused harm, then I apologise from the bottom of my heart.”

Mthembu said the apology had to be to the whole nation because everybody was affected.

Read Haffajee’s explanation of the decision to take down The Spear here.

The decision followed more than a week of controversy over Murray’s reworking of a Russian propaganda poster of Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, for his exhibition Hail to the Thief II at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

“For any editor to respond to a threat to take down an article of journalism without putting up a fight is an unprincipled thing to do, so we’ve fought as much as we could.

It doesn’t serve City Press or South Africa to dig in our heels and put our fingers in our ears,” Haffajee wrote.