The murky campaigners who reportedly put the monstrous poster up at the top of Long Street were indulging in shallow and provocative theatrics, says the writer. Picture: Michael Walker/ Independent Media

Cape Town - The man whose company put up the “Zuma Must Fall” billboard in the Cape Town CBD has slammed ANC leaders for inciting its supporters to forcibly remove the sign, and said he was only exercising his right to freedom of speech.

Read: Fracas unfolds as poster is torn down

Independent Outdoor Media chief executive Brett Dyssel said damage to the billboard was not an issue since it was covered by insurance.

He said the ANC and its alliance partners, who had fought and sacrificed for the right to free speech, were now overlooking this right.

“It was never envisaged by anybody that this particular form of ‘free speech’, (of) which (the) very same social message is seen, and continues to be seen on many other media platforms, would or could incite the level of disrespect for this constitutional right,” said Dyssel.

His company had been in trouble before with the City of Cape Town over billboards, and had gone as far as the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge the City’s by-law that regulates where billboards may be placed.

Read: City to take action over Zuma billboard

On Friday, soon after the City released a statement that the billboard was illegal, the ANC used social media and called on its supporters to remove the offending message.

ANC Cape Town metro spokesperson Khaya Yozi said: “The poster in our view is offensive and undermines our gains of democracy. We cannot, in this day and age, allow our democratically elected president to be insulted in the way in which he has been insulted.”

Read: Anger over ‘Zuma Must Fall’ ad

What had angered ANC leaders was that no one had claimed responsibility for erecting the billboard. Yozi claimed “white people” were behind it.

“We’ve got by-laws and regulations in the City. When there is something happening, a small shack being erected in the township, not even 12 hours will pass without (city) law enforcement coming to demolish that shack. Why was that thing left there?” asked Yozi.

The ANC said it would be demanding answers from the City.

Meanwhile, ANC MP Bongani Mkongi has retracted a comment he made on social media that the building which housed the billboard be burnt down with its occupants.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said ANC councillors who had “incited” the party’s supporters on social media could face possible disciplinary action for contravening the council’s code of conduct. 

He said the ANC was setting a bad precedent for removing signage and posters which they did not like.

Cape Times