Spear artist a boost for Zuma re-election bid
ANC president Jacob Zuma must thank artist Brett Murray for giving his campaign to be re-elected as the party's leader a much-needed shot in the arm.
Since the public outrage over Murray's controversial painting The Spear, led mainly by the ANC, many a commentator has accused the ruling party of being thin-skinned and unable to take any political blows to the chin.
Many have advised how the ANC leadership should have kept quiet about the painting, thereby showing their level of statesmanship. The issue would eventually have died down, they argued.
But proceedings at the ANC's Tuesday march to the Goodman Gallery painted a different picture. What transpired at the march has actually shown how Zuma and his supporters in the ANC leadership made a meal out of the situation.
In fact, by taking The Spear issue to the streets and "allowing the power of the people to fight the liberal offensive against the ANC" (as ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said during the march), the Zuma brigade have turned the tables in favour of his campaign for re-election in Mangaung.
So while some commentators were talking about how The Spear was dividing the nation, the Zuma brigade was seemingly making hay out of the situation.
Many of the speakers at Tuesday's march, including Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande and Mantashe (all known Zuma supporters), project the ANC leader as a victim of a liberal campaign against him as an individual and as a representative of the "still undermined" black people.
By elevating The Spear painting to being an attack on black people, the Zuma brigade seeks to give the impression that their fight is not for his political future in the ANC but rather about confronting the continued marginalisation of black people.
In so doing Zuma's supporters have actually upped the ANC leadership contest a notch higher than Polokwane 2007.
Of course the modus operandi is the same. In 2007 Zuma was an alleged victim of the abuse of state power by the government of the day under former president Thabo Mbeki. Both the corruption and rape charges against Zuma were painted as machinations by those in power to ensure that he did not ascend to Mahlamba'Ndlopfu.
Voting Zuma into power became the "spear" with which Zuma and his supporters had pierced the veil of resistance to having him become the country's first citizen.
Murray's work is now shown as being used to pierce Zuma's dignity and that of blacks.
The Zuma brigade now seeks to convince those in whose hands the president's future lies that the painting is being used to show him as an unworthy leader "simply because he is black and following his Zulu culture to the letter".
So anyone who opposes Zuma's re-election in Mangaung should be painted with this same brush.
If he or she is black, such an individual will be confirming the fact he-she is a lackey of the liberal onslaught largely driven by the likes of the Democratic Alliance in particular and whites in general who still cannot accept the fact that a black party is in power.
The essence of this strategy was captured in the words of ANC national executive member Ngoako Ramatlhodi who, before reading the memorandum presented to the Goodman Gallery management, shouted: "This is the beginning of the second transition!"
As far as Zuma's supporters wanted South Africa to believe, Polokwane was the beginning of the first transition.
And thanks to Murray, once again the Zuma brigade has moved into the driving seat of the second transition.
As for the South African public, the nagging question should be: "what's in it for us?"
First we were told about the bright future that post-Polokwane leadership would deliver to us.
But it all turned out to be a mirage in which (according to the ANC's renewal document to be discussed at the ruling party's policy conference in June), the party continues to be dogged by "a shift from transformative politics to palace politics wherein internal strife and factional battles over power and resources define the political life of the movement".
Judging from the line-up at Tuesday's march, the second transition will largely be led by the selfsame members of the 2007 Polokwane brigade.
Why should South Africans believe this time that this leadership will lead them to an oasis?