Artist Brett Murray's The Spear has offended the ANC. Image: Courtesy of the Artist and the Goodman Gallery


ANC leaders were still smarting over a painting of its president Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed, branding it racist on Monday as they prepared for a court challenge to have it removed.

“It's rude, it's crude, it's disrespectful, it's racist,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said at a post national executive committee (NEC) briefing in Joburg.

If a white man had been depicted, the reaction would have been very different, he said. As far as many people were concerned, blacks were just objects.

“I said how about the idea of going to court tomorrow and as we sit there we can take off our trousers... we can walk around with our genitals hanging out... it's crude.”

The party was going to the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday to try and compel the Goodman Gallery to take down the painting, and City Press newspaper to remove a photo of it from its website.

“We have not outgrown racism in our 18 years,” Mantashe said.

He believed there was widespread condemnation of the painting and felt it was polarising society along racial lines. The only threat to freedom of expression was people who used it without understanding it, thereby destroying it, he said.

Asked whether Zuma had not opened himself up to such a painting, Mantashe said Zuma's polygamy was not an excuse to paint him in that way.

“I happen to come from a family where polygamy is practised... does that mean they were walking around with their genitals hanging around?” Mantashe said.

“Polygamy is equal to hanging your genitals in the open?”

Polygamy was a choice. Mantashe had one wife, and his own father chose to have one wife, he continued.

“We are not surprised by the president who is polygamous.”

He was angered by a Sunday Times editorial calling Zuma a stallion.

“A stallion is a male horse... that is insulting, it is rude. It reflects hatred, that is all it does.”

At that point, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu gently leaned forward and said everybody was protected by the Constitution.

“Comrade Jacob Zuma has a right to human dignity.”

Asked what Zuma himself thought of the painting, Mantashe said he had not asked him. – Sapa