Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile. Photo: Oupa Mokoena

South Africans need to find the correct balance between freedom of expression and the right to dignity, Art and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said on Wednesday.

Mashatile said tension over the Spear painting, depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed showed that South African society required healing, reconciliation and nation-building,

“Honourable Speaker, in the past two weeks there have been heightened tensions among South Africans about what is wrong and what is right,” he said.

“This tension brought about by the artwork 'The Spear' has broken the reality that ours is a society that requires great effort towards healing, reconciliation and nation-building.”

Mashatile said he was “happy” that the matter was being resolved.

He said it was “quite clear” that more dialogue was required if South Africa was to build “a socially inclusive society”.

“Honourable Members, there are very loud voices out there that seem to suggest that the ruling party has been bullying others and therefore denying them their right to freedom of expression.

“This perception is wrong.”

He said the ANC had fought for freedom of the press and had done away with censorship and banning orders.

Those who argued for freedom of expression should equally appreciate the rights of other South Africans to dignity as guaranteed in the constitution.

“As South Africans, we need to find the correct balance between freedom of expression and the right to dignity,” he said.

South Africans had to “work together” to erect new symbols of a democratic society that would have a positive meaning to all. - Sapa