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Haffajee removes 'The Spear' from website

City Press editor has removed 'The Spear' from the City Press website.

City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee. Picture: Nick Noulton/Destiny Magazine.
Jacob Zuma,Gwede Mantashe,Jackson Mthembu,The Spear,Goodman Gallery,City Press,Brett Murray,Ferial Hafferjee
Local Politics

JOHANNESBURG - Initially adamant not to remove 'The Spear' picture from the City Press website, editor Ferial Haffajee on Monday removed the controversial painting from the website.

The City Press website now boasts a black block with a note above reading, " The Spear is down - out of care and fear."

The note below the blank image read, "The Spear is down. Out of care and as an olive branch to play a small role in helping turn around a tough moment, I have decided to take down the image."

The story links to a column written by Haffajee.

Haffajee confirmed her decision on Talk Radio 702's John Robbie Show on Monday morning that she will be removing the controversial picture from the newspaper's website.

During the live radio interview, Robbie asked Haffajee if she had made the decision to take down the picture.

Haffajee replied, "Yes."

She also told Robbie she would not resign over the matter.

Haffajee wanted reconciliation, saying, “I’ve been reading and listening to everything. City Press is now in the centre and it’s not even a debate anymore, it’s a clash.

“I’d rather not have us there. I’d rather be part of calming down the temperatures and being a resolution.”

On Sunday she confirmed to Eyewitness News that she had scheduled a number of meetings for Monday in the hopes of dealing with the matter.

“I’ve quite had it with the stalemate,” said Haffajee.

“I need to find a solution. It’s been painful for both my colleagues and I.”

Haffajee is not sure, if given the chance, she would publish the picture again.

“I think I might run ten miles in the other direction.

“Do I regret it?” she questions. “I think if we hadn’t done it, I don’t think we would have a very essential debate.”

City Press refused to remove the image of the controversial painting of Jacob Zuma by artist Brett Murray because this would be considered as an act of censorship. 

The ANC demanded the paper remove the picture from its website and that the Goodman Gallery remove the portrait from its display.

The president chose to take the matter to court while there have been calls to boycott the newspaper altogether.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe confirmed on Sunday he would continue putting pressure on the newspaper to remove the image from its website.

Meanwhile, the ANC said it was investigating how a statement by suspended African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) leader Julius Malema was sent from its own press statement system.

Malema's column argued that the ANC was wrong to call for people to boycott the City Press newspaper.

This column was then sent out to the country's political journalists from the ANC's system, despite his very public expulsion from the party.

“Julius Malema is not a member of the ANC,” said Jackson Mthembu.

“His statements should not be issued via the ANC.”

Meanwhile, the German art collector, who bought the painting, is expected to collect the artwork himself and has indicated that he will not have it restored.

The man purchased the painting for R136,000.

The Goodman Gallery's Liza Essers said, “He still wishes to have the painting in its defaced form, so we will be honouring our agreement with him.”

Art expert Philippa Duncan believes it is not advisable to restore the painting at all.

“The defacing of the painting has become so much a part of the painting and its history now and reversing the graffiti will in a sense lose the integrity of the painting.” 

The painting depicts Zuma with his pants unzipped and his genitals exposed.

Last week two men entered the Goodman Gallery and defaced the painting.

They were arrested and will appear in court soon.

To read Haffajee's latest letter click here.

 (Edited by Clare Matthes)

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