Nzimande’s call for City Press boycott ‘deeply disturbing’ – Haffajee

2012-05-24 10:58

SA Communist Party general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s call for Cosatu and its affiliates to boycott City Press “is deeply disturbing as he is usually a man of ideas and of debate,” City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee has said.

“He must be very angry and that saddens me,” she said, adding: “I am devastated by this week, by our descent into defacement and boycott over discussion and debate.”

Speaking at the elective conference of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Kempton Park, Nzimande called for the boycott until City Press apologises for publishing a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma’s genitals.

Nzimande described Brett Murray’s painting, The Spear, as one of the most serious violations of the black body in recent times.

Nzimande said he would soon send an email asking the newspaper to cancel his subscription starting this coming Sunday.

“We are doing all this in order to protect human dignity in this country.

“It is our democratic right not to read City Press. Let us use this weekend to call on all our shop stewards’ councils, our churches, our branch meetings, our stokvels, our calls to radio stations to say human dignity, especially black dignity, must be respected in this country,” he said.

He compared the painting to the infamous portrayals of Sarah Baartman and the “Tauza dance” naked black people were forced to perform in front of apartheid authorities to prove that they were not hiding contraband.

Nzimande said other cultures were respected in South Africa, except the culture of Africans.

He cited a newspaper article in which Haffajee spoke against the cartoons portraying Islam’s revered spiritual figure, the Prophet Muhammad, in violation of the region’s rules.

“In May 2010, Ferial Haffajee reflected on this. She said, “My gentle brother made me understand, for the first time, that freedom of expression was not absolute, no rights were. Rights have to be balanced against responsibilities, not doing harm, causing offence and understanding social mores”,” he said.

He then quoted Haffajee’s reasons for refusing to remove a picture of the Zuma painting from the paper’s website, and asked what the difference was between the “legitimate anger of Muslims and that of Africans” over the portrayals.

“Who has selective morality? Is it us or Ferial Haffajee?,” he said.

Said Haffajee: “Mr Nzimande has also alleged that my decision to defend the ANC’s decision to ask the court to compel City Press to take the image of The Spear down from online publication is duplicitous in view of my response to deep Muslim anger and a boycott call in 2006. At the time, I wrote that freedom of expression is neither limitless nor to be viewed in isolation of other rights.

“It is a view I still live by and have never claimed that my or City Press’s freedom of expression is limitless. But our right to publish and to free expression is constitutional.”

The ANC has taken City Press and the Goodman Gallery to court to force them to remove the Brett Murray painting. Court proceedings are under way today.

NUM president Senzeni Zokwana yesterday asked Cosatu to lead a march of naked men to the Goodman gallery in protest against the painting.

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