City Press removes The Spear because of “fear”

The Spear (censored)

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee has decided to remove the Brett Murray painting that has offended some parts of society from her newspaper’s website.

The painting, which portrayed South African President Jacob Zuma with genitals hanging from his trousers titled The Spear and exhibited as part of of Murray’s Hail to the Thief II exhibition, has caused an uproar among many in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and Zuma’s own household – with his daughters complaining that their father’s dignity was violated by his depiction in the painting.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has called on his party’s supporters to boycott the paper during the weekend. Some members of his party heeded the call while others refused to support his call. The party’s expelled youth leader, Julius Malema, insisted that the call by Mantashe undermined the judiciary. Malema said that he will buy 2 copies of the paper this previous Sunday. His former league issued a statement on Saturday discouraging the ANC from “intimidating” people who hold views that are different from its own. “We call on our organisation to reconsider its intimidation tactics against the City Press in particular and on all members of society to determinedly defend the right to differing views with no fear of retribution,” said the statement by issued ANCYL communication head, Khusela Sangoni.

In a surprise move, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee announced in a News24 column that she has removed The Spear from her newspaper’s website, citing fears.

“Of course, the image is coming down from fear too. I’d be silly not to admit that.  The atmosphere is like a tinderbox: City Press copies went up in flames on Saturday; I don’t want any more newspapers burnt in anger.

My colleague has been removed from a huge trade union congress and prevented from reporting – I don’t want the lingering image (which in any event is viral) to stop us being able to do our core job. Our vendors are most at risk.

It was quite shocking to watch three big men of government, the SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande; the governing party’s Gwede Mantashe and its spokesperson Jackson Mthembu call City Press all manner of names and to call for a boycott. That they have failed is neither here nor there; that they did mark a moment of inflexion in our society,” writes Haffajee.