Female supporters of South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday marched through the capital Pretoria to defend him against attacks including a satirical painting depicting him engaged in a S3x act.
Several hundred members of African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) rallied outside the Union Buildings, the official seat of the government.
The ANC Women’s League held its march to demonstrate its loyalty to Zuma, who was recently depicted in the graphic painting by a local artist Ayanda Mabulu.
“The painting denigrates the president, not just him, but women as well, given how a woman is portrayed,” Toko Xasa, ANCWL spokeswoman, told AFP.
“We can’t allow that to happen.”
An ANCWL statement before the march attacked “the portrayal of the President’s genitals in the mouth of a woman,” and said the event would celebrate Zuma’s role in transforming the country since apartheid.
“We, therefore, stand firm in saying ‘hands off President Zuma’ as the leader of the (ANC) organisation and father of the nation,” it said.
Entitled “The P0rnography of Power”, the brightly coloured painting depicts Zuma in a S3x act surrounded by symbols and characters that the artist said represent rape, colonialism, slavery and exploitation.
Mabulu, the artist, defended his work and said that the protest was misguided.
“These women are protecting and defending someone who is raping the country,” he told AFP. “They should be protesting to protect the victims.”
Outrage over the painting, which first featured in the local media two weeks ago, echoed a similar dispute in 2012 over “The Spear”, a painting that showed Zuma with exposed genitals.
That image triggered fury from the ANC, which described it as “indecent, racist, disrespectful and an abuse of freedom of expression”.
The painting, by Brett Murray, was the subject of court cases and was vandalised at a Johannesburg gallery.
Members loudly cheered to calls made by various leaders, saying the president is a father too and elderly men must be respected in African culture.
Thousands of women in green dresses marched to the Union Buildings to raise various issues of concern but most importantly to defend the dignity of the president.
The league says in the past all presidents who led the ANC, like Oliver Tambo, were defended no matter what and Zuma is included.
Members will be handing over a memorandum to a government representative.
ANCWL President Bathabile Dlamini has defended the movement’s decision to march to defend Zuma’s dignity.