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ANC must avoid being painted with apartheid brush

The Times Editorial | 2012-05-22 01:00:20.0

The Times Editorial: The furore over the Brett Murray portrait of President Jacob Zuma has taken a dangerous turn. Yesterday, the Shembe church, which is supposed to be a guiding light to society, called for Murray to be stoned to death.

The Goodman Gallery, in Johannesburg, where Murray's painting is being displayed, will have to answer before a judge this morning following a complaint by the ANC.

The hardened attitudes about the painting further expose South Africans' divergent views on what constitutes freedom of speech.

The ANC says the Zuma portrait is not only rude and crude but outright racist.

Although the ANC has every right to be aggrieved by the portrait of Zuma, the question should, however, be: Is the ANC only against the Zuma portrait? Does it have no qualms about the other portraits at the gallery that critique the ANC's policies except the Zuma one? Murray's Hail to the Thief II exhibition questions the ruling party's commitment to the Freedom Charter and its declaration to create "a better life for all".

The focus on the Zuma portrait and the deafening silence on the others showsthe ruling party's court challenge is about Zuma, the individual.

The ANC's call to its members to gather outside the court today to "defend the dignity, reputation and integrity of the president of the ANC and of South Africa" could easily lead to violence as we witnessed last week with Cosatu's "defence" against a DA march.

While Murray might be threatened with death, the ANC should also tell its supporters that it once supported the artist's work when he took pot shots at the National Party apartheid leadership.

For those who are not aware, Murray once had his work banned and declared a threat to national security by the apartheid government.

With the court challenge today and threats to stone him to death, the ANC must avoid being painted with the same brush as the National Party government.

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