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

Related Stories

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 Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

Pistorius trial: South Africans still looking for finality

The BBC's Andrew Harding takes a look at what conclusions, if any, can be drawn about South Africa from the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • 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?

  • 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 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 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 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.


Comments 5 of 14



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.