A defiant stand by City Press editor Ferial Haffajee came to an end today with the removal of The Spear from the paper’s website.
In a special column on the City Press website this morning she wrote: “The Spear is down. Out of care and as an olive branch to play a small role in helping turn around a tough moment, I have decided to take down the image.”
This came as a downbeat, shattered Haffajee revealed her own harassment since she allowed the publication of the painting, declaring that the paper would be withdrawing the online image.
Until this morning she had vowed not to remove the image.
Haffajee described her experience of the fallout over the painting as terrifying and humiliating.
Opponents of the portrait depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals on display have deemed the painting an attack on Zuma’s dignity.
Haffajee said she was humiliated and terrified by some of the comments and threats she had received.
In an open letter addressed to Zuma’s daughter Duduzile, Haffajee yesterday wrote in City Press: “So I feel your pain at Brett Murray’s work. I understand that what is a work of satire to me is a portrait of pain to you. I understand the impact on your little brothers and sisters, who may face teasing at school. Playground cruelty leaves deep scars.
“And if they and your dad saw the work in our pages and it caused harm, then I apologise from the bottom of my heart… I am sad to say, it’s the price of being the first daughter.”
During an interview on Talk Radio 702 this morning, Haffajee said she remained worried about the safety of her journalists and newspaper vendors after heavy-handed protests against the paper.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was said to have thrown a City Press journalist out of a conference this weekend, and at a workers’ march in Durban, numerous copies were burned in the streets.
This came after numerous trade unions called for a boycott on the paper.
However, Haffajee confirmed this morning that no incidents of violence had been reported yet, and that outside of Limpopo, circulation figures had not appeared to have dropped.
“But I’ll only have the final figures in two weeks’ time,” she said.
As Haffajee prepared to meet the ANC today, she said she wanted reconciliation with those who had been offended, but had not been in any way pressured by shareholders or upper management to change her stance.
She called on those who wished to show support for the painting to make their voices heard.
Tomorrow protesters are expected to march on the Goodman Gallery where The Spear was exhibited, and where it was defaced last week by two men.
“Cosatu calls on all workers, employed and unemployed, youth and students, and all who disagree with a painting of anybody’s genitals, worst of all the president of the country, to join the march,” Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said.
“But please wear clothes!” he urged, after threats by NUM suggested that protesters may arrive naked. The march will begin at Zoo Lake and end at the gallery.
A security guard, Paul Molesiwa, accused of assaulting one of the men who defaced the image, was due to appear at the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court today.
lIn an earlier editon of The Star today Haffajee said that especially upsetting was a scathing tweet from Patrice Motsepe, a powerful mining tycoon who ranks in the top five wealthiest men in the country.
However, later this morning Haffajee tweeted to say that “Patrice, the real” had called her to say that the Twitter persona @PatriceMotsepe was a fake and his lawyers were investigating.