Jacob Zuma painting - have the bullies won?

Copies of South Africa's City Press paper on fire Copies of the City Press paper have been set on fire in protest at The Spear

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Never a dull moment.

If you've followed the raw, bigoted, bullying, petty and profound debate triggered by the depiction of President Jacob Zuma's penis in an art gallery exhibition, you'll know what an absorbing and energising cauldron of a country South Africa remains.

Where else do anger and eloquence rub shoulders so routinely?

The latest twist came on Monday when the editor of City Press - a newspaper that had published a photo of the offending picture and firmly refused to remove it despite mounting pressure - announced on a local radio station that she had changed her mind.

Ferial Haffajee noted that the "debate has become a clash" and, sounding deeply bruised by the whole experience, spoke of the need to put national reconciliation ahead of principle.

So - have the bullies got their way again, or has common sense prevailed? A bit of both, I'd say.

But above all, I'm reminded of the extent to which the stain of apartheid endures in the lives of South Africans, despite two decades of democracy.

I spent most of the 1990s in the former Soviet Union, where many people shrugged off communism like a bad dream.

Racism is a much more resilient beast.

Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @Martyn abrahams: What do corruption and nepotism have to do with painting a Black man with his genitals exposed and clearly exaggerated, especially given South Africa's history of dehumanising Black people? If the artist wants to protest against corruption, by all means let him - but not by casting Zuma as some sex-crazed monster with a 10-inch penis. Show some respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Democracy according to the ANC:
    1) A President who was accused of rape. ruling a Government who is not allowed to be challenged, 2) A political party using hypocrisy, bully tactics and patronage in a democracy has the right to economic self gain. 3) Use apartheid as a weapon to gain support when it wains. 4) Disagreement with any of the above = you are a racist!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    You obviously have no idea what the painting represents or have any understanding of why it was painted. If so, then obviously the nepotism & corruption that are so rife in S Africa is colored by your belief or apparent bias support and therefore lack of balanced opinion. You call it racist yet I doubt you have much to say when the ANC elite use racist language against the opposition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The painting was in extremely poor taste. And the media outlets that have carried the picture in south Africa (as well as the gallery that exhibited it and the person who bought the painting) are all non-Black, while the president is, of course.
    It's racism. Haffajee is a Muslim - would her newspaper carry cartoons of the prophet Muhammad under the same 'free speech' banner?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    It's not like the President is a prude. He has, how many children for how many wives,girlfriends?. He's obviously not ashamed to exhibit his penis, so what's the fuss?.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    What is all the fuss about?If only the originator of the picture could put what was on the mind, in words,at the time of drawing;matters might have been calmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    no. the cartoonist won. the pig headed racists that run south africa are just too narrow minded get irony, and too stupid to consider critisism in a good humoured and constructive way. the fact that zuma had to resort to draconican legal action, is representative of what a weak 'leader' he really is.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    "1.BluesBerry How would we feel if this were a depiction of Obama? How about Cameron?"

    Totally fine?

    A politician with an ego and the will to enforce it is just 1 step from a dictator.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I have followed with interest this controversial piece of art and the furore it has caused in South Africa.
    The tragedy for South Africa is that the predominant media is a representative of that press, is a mouth piece of the privileged class and spends its time on so called democracy preservationwithout regards of the deep cleavages and social injustice in South Africa still to be addressed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Cultural values serve as social bond when used with respect. The Jacob Zuma issue has not given due respect to these values and no body is a winner but the fact it was publicized is a damage to social values. I hope this will be a lesson to all of US to care for our Culture that identifies US as to who we are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    It's common sense for the editor to remove the image, but it's blatant bullying by the Government in the first place to get it removed. It's just like so many African countries where the ruling party become so used to power that they seem to think they are above the law, but then I guess they do appoint the judges and the police chiefs so they probably are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I can only imagine the sense of shame & affront created by
    - depiction of President Jacob Zuma's penis in an art gallery exhibition,
    - publication by the press.
    We are not that far removed from Apartheid wherein blacks were seen as something not quite human, not quite deserving as whites. How would we feel if this were a depiction of Obama? How about Cameron?



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