No matter how concerned you may or may not be over the smearing of The Spear, you have to give some credit to Barend la Grange, writes Kevin Davie.
La Grange – who until now had only one brief flirtation with fame as someone who tried to get motorists to “adopt” and fix potholes on the East Rand for a small fee – took the initiative and put two large Xs on Zuma: one to cover his exposed genitalia and the other to show his displeasure at the ANC-led government.
Mr Pothole told reporters the next day: “A high court must get involved for a painting? It took me 15 seconds to get rid of the painting.”
He was soon followed, apparently coincidentally, by Limpopo taxi driver Louis Mabokela, who smeared black paint over much of Zuma’s torso and below. Both men were arrested, Mabokela suffering a head butt and body slam in the process from a gallery security guard, Paul Molesiwa, who was also arrested.
La Grange and Makobela face charges of malicious damage to property. Some see the destruction of artist Brett Murray’s work as an affront to his freedom of expression – perhaps even the thin edge of a thicker, intolerant wedge that, over time, will destroy newspapers, books and other works seen to be uncomfortable or unpopular.
Cosatu running the country
The smear of The Spear has nothing to do with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Yet, when I think of the events at the Goodman Gallery, I also have the image of Gordhan sitting in court at the end of April, when the treasury was a respondent in the action brought by Outa, the opposition alliance to e-tolling.
A deal was struck on the day between Cosatu and the ANC to delay the implementation of the tolls. The ruling party and its union ally apparently made the decision without reference to the people actually charged with running the country – the Cabinet in general and the treasury in particular.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Cosatu was actually running the country. When the Democratic Alliance wanted to march to protest against the failure of the government to implement its own policy, the youth wage subsidy, it marched to the trade union federation’s headquarters to make its point.
Leadership and transparency
For e-tolling to succeed, two things always had to happen. There had to be strong political leadership and transparency in the way toll fees were calculated. Neither has happened, even though the country has run up a R20-billion bill in new roads that somehow has to be met.
Zuma has not provided leadership on the key issues. He postures and muddles – but little gets done. Too much time has been wasted on reining in Julius Malema, whom Zuma initially unleashed as an ally.
Where we should have policy formulation and implementation, we have a vacuum. This week the country stopped completely, transfixed by an image of the president with his appendage laid bare.
So, thank goodness for Mr Pothole, a grey man-turned-action hero who, with a few strokes of red paint, got us all going again.