I would keep up Spear now - Haffajee

2012-08-01 20:23

Cape Town - City Press editor Ferial Haffajee would not remove Brett Murray's controversial painting The Spear  from her newspaper's website if given the chance now, she said on Wednesday.

"I would not take down that image today, knowing what I do now," she said at the TB Davie memorial lecture at the University of Cape Town.

"That power of love, of standing down, of reconciling to a great good has withered in my eyes and it's been made to whither by a failed and slaving leech, by men and women who are shadows of the people who led us into this democratic era."

Haffajee said the upshot was that she was a changed person.

"I'm less a child of [former president Nelson] Mandela than I used to be and more a freedom of expression fundamentalist."

She said the debacle had allowed her, for the first time, to feel the fear of freedom slipping away and to get a glimpse into what the "histrionics" were raving about when they painted pictures of doom and gloom.

Although she recognised that fundamentalism was not really helpful, she had come to understand that the "lifeblood" of democratic freedom was easily and quickly undermined.

"Independently, I feel my freedom being eviscerated... Achieving freedom took many, many decades and took thousands of lives but it takes very, very little to kill it."

Haffajee announced at the end of May that she would take down an image of the painting. The decision followed more than a week of controversy over the painting, which depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

Murray reworked a Russian propaganda poster of Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for his exhibition Hail to the Thief II at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

When Haffajee initially refused to remove the image, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe called for a boycott of City Press.

Two people were arrested for defacing the painting and a third for spray-painting part of the word "respect" on the gallery's outside wall.

A senior counsel broke down in court during a challenge by the African National Congress, Zuma and Zuma's children, to have the painting and web images of it banned.

Haffajee said: "We almost became the focal point of a presidential campaign for re-election.

"I have no doubt that the fight about this was an easy comeuppance for a media with which the governing party often had [clashed], because it disliked the mirror we hold up to society."

The editor said despite the drama, she was confident that South Africa had nothing to worry about in terms of freedom.

She said she had the greatest confidence in the "awakening" of civil society and its ability to fight for worthy causes and win.

The Social Justice Coalition, the Right2Know campaign, Section27 and Equal Education were prime examples.

  • Squeegee - 2012-08-01 20:33

    I don't know if I really believe you any more...

      Adil Smit - 2012-08-01 20:45

      She's human and responded to intimidation and threats on her life and business like most women ( and men ) would. Her openness is refreshing.

      Squeegee - 2012-08-01 21:33

      Your'e right Adil, but now the ANC bullies know that with enough intimidation they can have their way. If she had been able to resist (I'm not saying I would not have caved) our democracy would have been stronger today.

      fussed.anderson - 2012-08-01 21:35

      She does not own that business, only managing on behalf of others. She has fired others for standing there ground but she cant. Resign as well

      nicholas.graan - 2012-08-01 21:41

      What makes it worse, is that I don't believe it was genuine anger over the painting was manufactured anger designed to benefit Zuma leading up to Mangaung and everyone, including Haffajee fell for it.

      tebalob - 2012-08-02 08:13

      Me too Squeegee.,dont belive a word of what she'e saying. In fact she has erased all the squeekie respect I had for her by,now,undermining our intelligence!the twerp1

      preshen.govender.90 - 2012-08-02 08:50


  • michellehsolomon - 2012-08-01 20:34

    Sapa is a bit behind - Ferial gave this same speech at Rhodes a month ago. :P

  • sakhi.TheNextKent.dlala - 2012-08-01 20:37

    yeah right Ferry

  • Erna - 2012-08-01 20:55

    I know it was a hard decision to make with the anc and their stooges climbing on the bandwagon with their disgusting behaviour, but I was disappointed when she caved in.

  • Vince.York - 2012-08-01 20:58

    Ferial, "Who is John Galt?" you allowed yourself to be crushed................................nxa

  • melusi.myaluza - 2012-08-01 21:01

    Yeah right Madam coward! Put it back and lets see quickly retreating to the kitchen again,that's where u belong!!!

  • CORNHOLIO - 2012-08-01 21:01

    please , no more spear

  • david.christianson1 - 2012-08-01 21:16

    A bit late

  • BulletProof. - 2012-08-01 21:17

    The Spear grow up balls at exprense of the freedom rights.Viva Freedom.

  • ruben.maistry - 2012-08-01 21:19

    You buckled Haffajee, too late, you lost your reputation then,and by making this statement you are just riniforcing your loss.

  • sean.mkhize.1 - 2012-08-01 21:25


  • mark.hicks.90281 - 2012-08-01 21:30

    There are a lot more credible and effective ways of criticising the President other than keeping an, admittedly nasty, piece of art on a website. Unfortunately for the country there are too many things he can be criticized for. Too little too late ma'am.....

  • jason.simpson.714655 - 2012-08-01 21:34

    Dont judge her lest you too have had "barbarians at the gate".

  • james.moffatt.1238 - 2012-08-01 21:35

    We all have to test our conscience and learn. You're being too hard on her. Haffajee is a journalist that should be respected for her strength - look at her history of reporting, she is no wallflower.. At the time, she made an informed decision to rescind.

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-08-01 21:44

    Atta girl. Spirit. Proudly South African.

  • millionwatts1 - 2012-08-01 21:48

    Yeah right Haffajee! They call it luxury of retrospect.

  • - 2012-08-01 22:24

    Unfortunately noone has the balls to define this word 'freedom' in unambiguous terms. We really believe that we are free to infringe on the freedoms and dignities of others, free to say obscenities in public and free to even plan a coup (in the name of freedom!). Last two days, an aide to 'Twitt' Romney said 'kiss my *ss' and created a storm all over the world! Dare you draw a naked David Cameron or Obama. Its just so base I actually don't know whether the people who support this Spear freedom nonsense are normal people. Surely its freedom to you? If we say the Boeremag twitts should hang, you defend them because they are 'freedom' fighters. Maybe a good starting point then is to agree on a new definition of freedom. Maybe one that is unique to RSA.

  • Adil Smit - 2012-08-01 23:45

    How many of you commenting here are women?

  • jannie.theron - 2012-08-02 09:00

    So why not put it back up then ?

  • mbambo.shi - 2012-08-02 09:27

    The only artist wijth a bakckbone, who can stand these bullies in South Africa is Zapiro. I can honestly say, Haffajee, you are lying through your teeth, given they way you were so shivering when apologising for not having done anything wrong. "A man/woman is characterised by his/her day-to-day lifestyle. (i.e. If you are a drunkard, you don't deserve to be painted or potrayed as a saint. Hence, Zuma deserved to be painted as a DICK, as done by Zapiro).

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