JOHANNESBURG -- A South African painting showing the president in what appears to be a sexual act with Nelson Mandela is stirring outrage as well as calls to respect freedom of expression.
Artist Ayanda Mabulu said his painting is meant to show how scandal-plagued President Jacob Zuma has violated the hopeful legacy of Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa’s first black president after the end of white minority rule in 1994. Thousands of South Africans have protested against Zuma in recent weeks after his dismissal of a widely respected finance minister increased concerns about government corruption. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Thursday that it respects Mabulu’s freedom of expression but finds the painting “distasteful.”
The ruling African National Congress party made a similar statement while calling the work “grotesque.” It urged South Africans to ignore the painting, which has been posted on some news websites.
Earlier this month, cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who signs “Zapiro” on his work, penned an image that showed Zuma zipping up his trousers and walking away from a distraught woman wearing a dress with the colors of the South African flag and being held down by Zuma supporters. Some people criticized Zapiro for alleged insensitivity to rape victims. The cartoonist said he wanted to send a strong message about the impact of Zuma’s conduct on South Africa.
The president’s tenure has been overshadowed by scandals, including the spending of millions of dollars in state funds on his private home. He paid back some money after the Constitutional Court ruled against him last year. Zuma also continues to face occasional protests over his acquittal for rape 10 years ago.