Brett Murray’s portrait of Zuma opens old wounds | by Jackson Mthembu

by Jun 9, 2012All Articles

Jackson Mthembu questions why black, not white, defacer of painting was assaulted by security guard
The African National Congress (ANC) fully welcomes the Court decision to have a full bench of the South Gauteng High Court hearing the matter regarding the urgent application of the ANC and President Jacob Zuma in what we consider to be a depiction and an art work that violates the dignity as well as being a affront to the image, reputation and standing of the President.
This demonstrate that “this matter is of national importance and public interest”, as articulated by the presiding Judge Fayeeza Kathree Setiloane, this morning, the 22nd May 2012.
We also welcome that this matter will now be heard this coming Thursday, the 24th May 2012.
We have brought this application before our Courts because we believe that the right to human dignity and privacy of cde President Zuma has been grossly violated and we believe that these rights are protected and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
It is equally our view that this distasteful, vulgar, indecent, disrespectful and insulting piece of work cannot be defended on the basis of the freedom to artistic expression.  The freedom to artistic expression is not a supper right that is meant to undermine other rights, particularly the right to human dignity and privacy.
Our approach to our Courts on this matter is to get and establish certainty that indeed the freedom to artistic expression is not above the freedom to human dignity and privacy. We also want to get certainty that artists or satirists are not above our Constitution and therefore cannot demean and insult anybody with impunity.
This morning a number of ANC members and supporters gathered near the South Gauteng High Court to express their outrage and anger at the insult and the disrespect directed to President Jacob Zuma by the offensive so-called art.
Our supporters, members and fellow South Africans, did not in any way through their action and conduct show disrespect to others as they defended the ANC and its President. We call on our members to come in their large numbers to defend their Movement (the ANC, the President and the Constitution of our country.  We expect our members to continue to conduct themselves in this exemplary manner on Thursday and beyond.
We have been informed that the offending piece of art has been defaced.  Whilst we cannot condone any action that is not legal, we equally do not condone the assault of the African young man who is a suspect on this matter. It is very contrasting and concerning that another suspect who happens to be a white South Africa was not assaulted but was treated with dignity as he was arrested.
Perhaps it is this type of behaviour on the part of Goodman Gallery and its security that might need to be further explained.  Are we still leaving in apartheid South Africa, where blacks are treated differently from their white counterparts? Would the same question not been asked of the artists, the gallery and the piece of insulting work before our Courts?
This type of indecency, disrespect and indignity characteristic of Brett Murray’s spear portrait, has a potential to reverse all the gains we have made as a country of healing the wounds of apartheid oppression and colonialism.  This flies in the face of building a South African nation that is united in its diverse cultures.
We call upon all South Africans, black and white, to refuse to be part of the reversal of our democratic gains.  Let us refuse to be polarised as a people but stand together in defence of a non-racial, dignified South Africa that belongs to all of us who live in it!!!
Statement issued by Jackson Mthembu, ANC national spokesperson, May 22 2012
22 May 2012
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