Moneycontrol
you are here: HomeNewsWorld
May 31, 2012 01:39 PM IST | Source: ft.com

Zuma painting charges dropped

The African National Congress, South Africa's governing party, said on Wednesday it was dropping legal action against a gallery that exhibited a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

Zuma painting charges dropped

The African National Congress, South Africa's governing party, said on Wednesday it was dropping legal action against a gallery that exhibited a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.


The move ended the highly charged controversy that revealed the lingering racial tensions that exist in the young democracy.


More News From Financial Times
Zuma painting sparks censorship row
Zuma painter was an active protester against apartheid
Zuma painting reveals SA tensions
Zuma row escalates after art attack
Zuma exposed


Jackson Mthembu, the ANC's spokesman, said there was no point pursuing the legal action as the party and the gallery had reached a settlement.


The gallery agreed that the work, "The Spear", which had been defaced by two men last week, would not be displayed.


The lawsuit applied to City Press newspaper, which had posted an image of The Spear on its website but the paper had agreed to remove the picture.


The painting, by Brett Murray, triggered a storm that exposed the fault lines in South African society 18 years after the end of apartheid. The ANC argued that it violated Mr Zuma's dignity and insulted the office of the presidency.


Many ordinary blacks were offended, saying it went against African culture, displayed insensitivity and a lack of understanding among whites and invoked humiliations Africans suffered under colonialism and apartheid when men were at times forced to strip naked in public.


The polarising saga illustrated what is seen as the ANC's increasing intolerance of criticism.


Last week, senior party members called for a boycott of City Press after it refused to remove the painting from its website, and on Tuesday the party organised a march of several thousands to the gallery.


It had closed to the public because of security concerns after the painting was defaced last week .


Writing a column explaining why City Press relented and removed the image from its website, the newspaper's editor, Ferial Haffajee said she was doing so out of "care and fear".


"The atmosphere is like a tinderbox. City Press copies went up in flames on Saturday, I don't want any more newspapers burnt in anger," she wrote.


"It was quite shocking to see three big men of government? call City Press all manner of names and call for a boycott. That they have failed is neither here nor there; that they did mark(s) a moment of inflexion in our society."


Commentators say Mr Zuma could benefit from the furore as he is portrayed as a victim of humiliation.


The ANC holds a five yearly conference in December at which its top leaders are up for election and there has been much speculation that Mr Zuma could face a leadership challenge.


He has been criticised for being an indecisive leader, while his colourful personal life has been the subject of debate. He has four wives and more than 20 children, and before he took office in 2009 he was acquitted of rape and had corruption charges against him, related to a multibillion dollar arms deal, dropped.


The controversy over "The Spear" has offered his supporters an opportunity to rally support for the president, commentators say.

The painting was sold to a German citizen for around R136,000 (USD 16,000) before the controversy erupted.

Sections
Follow us on
Available On