The Film and Publication Board's CEO Yoliswa Makhasi recused herself from a hearing on the classification of a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma after City Press editor Ferial Haffajee complained she was biased.
Haffajee said on 567CapeTalk on Wednesday morning that Makhasi's tweets during the hearing on Tuesday night indicated the hearing was purely for show.
“We looked at the tweets of the CEO and it was very clear that a decision had already been made... the issue had been pre-judged,” she said.
“It's supposed to be an independent institution.”
The purpose of the hearing had been to decide whether to classify Brett Murray's painting of Zuma with his genitals hanging out. “The Spear” was part of an exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. City Press published a picture of the painting soon after.
The FPB argued that the image was harmful to children and similar to child pornography in that it had been posted to numerous sites.
Both parties were invited to make submissions at the hearing.
Haffajee said they were only given three hours to prepare arguments, a process which usually took a month.
During the hearing, Makhasi posted on Twitter: “Classification decision. It's interesting how media is sensitive to being gagged and yet so quick to want to gag others.”
The City Press objected to her presence on the board and she agreed to recuse herself. She was replaced by chief operations officer Mmapula Fisha. Makhasi had since deleted her Twitter account.
After the hearing, Haffajee posted: “#fpb experience tonight is an argument against cadre deployment. Some organisations require scrupulous independence. Scrupulous.”
On Wednesday morning, however, she said she did not believe there had been political interference in the hearing. She said the board had very young members.
She said the African National Congress could be blamed for its response to the painting.
It launched an urgent court application on Friday to try and prevent the gallery from exhibiting the painting and City Press from showing the image on its website. The ANC would argue in court on Thursday that it should be removed because it violates Zuma's right to dignity and makes a mockery of his office.
“The ANC has done itself a massive disservice because it's gone absolutely viral. It's on millions of Facebook pages now. How do you pull that?” Haffajee said.
Two men would appear in court on Wednesday after allegedly defacing the portrait with red and black paint on Tuesday morning. The gallery has temporarily closed its doors to the public.
The FPB hearing would resume on Wednesday at 2pm. - Sapa