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Fri Sep 30 06:58:14 CAT 2016

Our democracy is young but banner vandals are infantile

The Times Editorial | 18 January, 2016 00:09

This weekend's brouhaha over the "Zuma Must Fall" banner in Cape Town shows that our nearly 22-year-old democracy still has a lot of growing up to do.

On Saturday members of the ANC converged on a residential building in the Cape Town city centre and, reportedly brandishing knives and other sharp objects, demanded access to apartments so they could get to the banner to cut it down.

Their motivation was that it was "racist" and, according to Xolani Sotashe, a regional ANC leader, such a banner would never be displayed in the US, France or Germany and so should not be allowed here.

Sotashe is wrong.

A Google search for "anti-Obama banners" comes back with several examples.

A 2010 banner compares Obama not just to Hitler but also to the defunct Soviet Union's seminal leader, Vladimir Lenin. "National Socialism" is printed above a picture of the infamous German dictator, "Marxist Socialism" over Lenin and "Democrat Socialism" over Obama.

A far harsher statement than #ZumaMustFall.

Other banners criticise Obama's healthcare policies and his Kenyan heritage.

Some are satirical, others spark controversy.

A similar search for anti-Merkel and anti-Putin banners returned similar results.

Around the world, individuals and opposition political parties will use various forms of media - banners included - to get their message across.

What those ANC members failed to realise is that the person or organisation responsible for the Cape Town banner, has a right, enshrined in the constitution, to freedom of thought, belief and opinion, and the right to express them.

Pulling down a banner because you don't agree with it shows a lack of maturity and tolerance for opinion that contradicts your own. We need to raise the level of engagement.

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