Ruling party supporters have begun their march on the Goodman Gallery to protest against the controversial Spear painting, which depicts President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
The marchers set off from Zoo Lake, led by Gwede Mantashe, Tony Yengeni and Blade Nzimande, at about 11.30am, after about 2 000 ANC supporters had gathered, singing struggle songs and brandishing placards.
Many vendors selling ANC memorabilia were also present, offering peak-caps, t-shirts, wraps and blankets.
Although all assembled were vocal in their opposition to the artwork, many differed over how and why they were opposed to it.
Some were adamant the artwork is an affront to President Zuma’s dignity and a personal attack on his integrity. They were taking part to show their support for the man himself and to sing his praises ahead of the next ANC elective conference in Mangaung this year.
There have already been cries supporting Zuma and decrying his enemies.
“Phansi, Julius! Phansi!” many jeered, in reference to the expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. “Viva, Zuma! Viva!”
Other held placards labelling Zuma a “god” under attack who deserved a second term.
“When we go to Mangaung we’ll be rubbing shoulders with Tata Zuma, we will make sure he will be re-elected. He deserves a second term, no matter what they say about him or how they treat him,” Thandabuntu Baloyi, who made the trip from Nelsrpuit, told the Mail & Guardian.
However, there were also marchers who felt the protest was not about any individual, but rather about protecting African culture.
“This is not about Zuma, this about cultural differences,” Musa Nkuna told the M&G, clad in an ANC shirt emblazoned with former president Nelson Mandela. “Brett Murray has the right to say what he wants, but he should take into account who he is offending. It is completely wrong to portray an elder with there privates hanging out. How would you feel if your father was painted like that.”
“I am here to protect Zuma and my culture. That painting is an insult to all the men of South Africa,” Mildred Theis of Alexandra told M&G.