Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini on Friday endorsed the call to boycott City Press.
“We call upon workers in the country to stop buying City Press as of this Sunday,” he told delegates attending the National Union of Mineworkers’ conference at Ekhuruleni.
The SACP and then the ANC on Thursday called for the boycott, until the newspaper removed from its website a controversial painting depicting President Jacob Zuma by artist Brett Murray.
The ANC has also called for a march on Tuesday to the Goodman Gallery, which was displaying the picture until it was defaced.
“We believe that City Press is part of a group of individuals who seek to undermine our freedom,” Dlamini said. “There’s been concerted efforts by this group to undermine the black working class.”
Dlamini cited Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder’s comments on the land issue and opposition DA leader Helen Zille’s reference to Eastern Cape residents who relocated to Western Cape schools as “refugees”, as well as the DA’s march on Cosatu headquarters over the youth wage subsidy that the labour federation is opposed to the government introducing.
He also referred to FW de Klerk’s interview on CNN where the former SA state president said “there many good things about apartheid”.
De Klerk was sharply criticized for telling interviewer Christiane Amanpour that South Africans living in apartheid homelands were not disenfranchised as they had a vote.
“These are the dangers that need to be exposed,” Dlamini said.
He also criticized both Cosatu and NUM over the factionalism dividing their ranks, saying: “It gives confidence to our class enemy to undermine us, the way we conduct ourselves”.
NUM president Senzeni Zokwana on Friday told the more than 1 000 delegates that City Press journalists were not welcome and should not be given interviews.
The SA National Editors’ Forum has expressed alarm at the boycott call.
“While we recognise the right of the ANC to advise members on how to exercise their consumer decisions, the call for a boycott of a newspaper is tantamount to intimidation and abuse of power,” it said on Thursday night.
The ANC responded sharply on Friday, saying this position was “inconsistent and opportunistic”:
Naitonal spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the ANC saw the boycott as ”a sensible and responsible option to continue engaging the newspaper” after pleas that it remove the picture from its website went unheeded.
“We believe that our withholding of our buying power together with all South Africans who believe that the painting is offensive, in the instance of City Press, we should demonstrate our outrage at their refusal to remove the painting on their website.
“We do not view our call for boycott as the abuse of power and intimidation but as a legal and legitimate instrument to register our outrage at the insult directed at the President and remains exhibited on their website.
“We will do everything within the bounds of law to persuade the newspaper to accept the reality that we will not rest until this public display of arrogance is removed and a public apology made.
"Until then, we will continue to call on all South Africans including all formations of civil society (business, labour, churches, youth formations and women organisations) and democrats at large ho share our sentiment on this issue to boycott the newspaper, cancel their subscriptions as we have done already and not to advertise in the City Press.
"Having demonstrated in our argument the difference between freedom of expression and public display of an insult, we recommit ourself to the defense of the freedom of expression, the right of dignity, respect and privacy. We want to reiterate that, the right of artistic expression does not supersede the right to be treated with human dignity," Mthembu said.
City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee was not immediately available for comment. - Political Bureau