Does Zuma have a right to privacy?

By Donwald Pressly Time of article published May 25, 2012

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There have been calls for Brett Murray to be stoned to death, albeit by a cleric, for his satirical “Spear of the Nation” painting of President Jacob Zuma.

Whatever the artistic merits of the satirical piece of artwork are, the call to violence can never be justified unless it is defence against actual and imminent physical attack.

We, however, are not known for our tolerance in South Africa. We have seen refugees from Mozambique and Zimbabwe being necklaced in public, merely because they were foreign. So tolerance of an artist’s right to expression is perhaps a little too much to expect, even from a cleric who should know better.

However, the president claims that his right to dignity has been impugned. Interestingly there isn’t an avalanche of criticism – particularly from the ANC – of the online version of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille naked. She apparently welcomed the send-up. One supposes that it is better than being called a “cockroach”.

The truth is that politicians deserve to be stripped of their masks. Any politician who claims right to privacy is treading on thin ice. Politics is not something for sissies and anyone who finds himself, or herself, on the benches of our city councils, provincial legislatures and Parliament should take the proverbial – and sometimes deeply unfair – punches that are the nature of the business.

Anyone who followed the president’s question time in Parliament this week needs little further evidence that “the emperor has no clothes”.

Zuma’s answers provided ample evidence of his inability to provide straight answers. Take for example a question, asked by DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko, whether the government would be taking steps to exclude from state contracts businesses which were linked to political parties – such as Chancellor House – or the business arms of the SA Communist Party or Cosatu, which form the ruling alliance headed by the ANC.

The president suggested that he and Mazibuko “read a different dictionary”. He continued: “If we have a company established… following the necessary procedures, rules and laws… (that) wins the tender… is that corruption?”

Mazibuko was referring to the indirect stake Chancellor House, the ANC business arm, had in Hitachi Power Africa – which was commissioned to install boilers at Medupi and Kusile power stations.

Now for one thing, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in the same National Assembly said four months ago that the ANC needed to avoid doing business with government “at all”. Clearly Zuma was not aware what his deputy had said. In addition his family is knee-deep in the matter of doing business with government.

His son is linked through his business partner in the surprise selection of Imperial Crown Trading 289 which was controversially given prospecting rights for a residual share of the Sishen iron ore mine.

This is still a matter of court. His nephew is embroiled in the Grootvlei and Orkney mine debacles which have left thousands of workers jobless.

It is unacceptable in a democracy for political parties – especially the one in power – to be involved in state contracts.

We need to be having a debate about family members of politicians benefiting from state contracts.

While the latter debate is not as clear cut as the former, the road to the centre of power in Pretoria does not appear to be paved with good intentions.

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