Brett Murray's depiction of Zuma disgusting - The Presidency

Mac Maharaj says nobody has the right to violate the dignity and rights of others

Presidency disgusted at violation of President Zuma's rights

18 May 2012

The Presidency is shocked and disgusted at the grotesque painting by Brett Murray depicting President Jacob Zuma in an offensive manner.

We are amazed at the crude and offensive manner in which this artist denigrates the person and the office of the President of the Republic of South Africa.

The Presidency is concerned that Brett Murray fails to appreciate that freedom carries a deep responsibility. The President was amongst the primary architects of our Constitution and shall defend the rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, including the freedom of artistic expression. However, in exercising these rights, people should at all times be conscious that they are not absolute. 

Nobody has a right to violate the dignity and rights of others while exercising their own. Other than his position as Head of State and as President of the ruling party, President Zuma as a citizen has a right to human dignity, which is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic. No human being deserves to be denigrated in this shocking manner.

We are also concerned that the painting perpetuates a shocking new culture by some sections of the artistic world, of using vulgar methods of communicating about leading figures in the country, in particular the President. 

Intense hatred of the new democratic administration or the ruling party should not translate into distorting South Africa's value system of emphasising respect and of ensuring that disagreements are expressed in a cultured and civilised manner, which these artists are failing to do. It is shocking as well that some media houses find this distasteful work worth displaying on their websites and are eager to publish it repeatedly.

The President reserves his rights in this matter.

Statement issued by Mac Maharaj, The Presidency, May 18 2012

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