The Politics of Ayanda Mabhulu!

Ayanda Mabulu’s latest portrait tittled ‘Economy of Rape’ has caused a stir in the country, with people divided on its meaning and whether it is appropriate or not. For the benefit of those who are yet to see it, Mabhulu’s latest work depicts President Jacob Zuma engaged in sexual intercourse with the late former President Nelson Mandela. Some argue that the artwork is both abhorrent and disrespectful of the dignity of the two statesmen. Whereas others find it valgur. Mabhulu to his defence, argues that the allegory of rape is to demonstrate the ruling party’s exploitation of the country’s resources at the expense of what he refers to as “peasants” or the Black working class. Even though the painting appears to be a depiction of a consensual sexual intercourse between the two statesmen. He further asserts that the painting is a visual device through which the shifting narratives between Mandela’s rainbow tinted ANC and Zuma’s ANC are explored. The last entry suggests that there is in fact a shifting narrative between the former and latter’s ANCs respectively, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. For 23 years, the ANC in power,(including Mandela’s) have served white, private capital to the detriment of the masses Mabhulu now claims the current ANC exploits.


To Mabhulu(who also argues that President Zuma is a rapist), the ANC’s safeguarding of the white wealth makes it the oppressors. To this end, Andile Mngxitama argues that Ayanda Mabhulu “is trapped inside white praise”is, that  “he imagines his world and rage through anti black modalities so well perfected by the west(read whites) over centuries.” To Mngxitama, Mabhulu’s outrage and depiction of Jacob Zuma as a rapist of the Black masses, conceals white culpability to the condition of Black people. Frantz Fanon in his seminal work, The Wretched of The Earth asserts that the ‘it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence. The settler owes the fact of his very existence, that is to say, his property, to the colonial system.’ There is no doubt here that white monopoly capital is the architect of the misery Black people find themselves in. Hence Mabhulu’s art obfuscates this narrative but instead reinvokes the narrative that the panacea to our problems as Blacks in this land is the ANC government and not the private white capital in the form of the Rupert and Oppenheimer families together with their party, the Democratic Alliance.


To this end, Mngxitama declares that Mabhulu is just a victim of white washing, therefore requires Black Consciousness. It is this philosophy of Blackness that will rescue Mabhulu and help him refocus his rage to the actual perpetrators of the crimes afflicting Black people. Mabhulu’s, like many Black people immersed in the obsession to remove Jacob Zuma from power, lack of BC has them fighting on behalf of the enemy whereas it gets away with murder. The narrative that Blackness is a problem is re-inscribed by the continuation to characterize the incumbent President as the chief problem afflicting this country. Mabhulu in essence has the right ammunition, he merely lacks the skills to provide a proper diagnosis due to bad political education he received under the mythical rainbow nation discourse.

Another narrative peddled by those captivated by this painting, is that Jacob Zuma is portrayed as messing up Mandela’s legacy, which suggests that this is a legacy worthy of praise and pride. It ignores the factual reality of how this Mandela legacy is a product of white capital in an attempt to derail the struggle for independence. To speak of a Mandela legacy is to speak of lack of white accountability with regard to centuries of exploitation of Black labour and mineral resources. The said legacy is a better representation of where Blacks are and always have been since the dawn of the so-called democracy. If Jacob Zuma is messing it, this then calls for this apt observation from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung:  “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” It means President Zuma messing of the legacy is an opportunity to redress all injustices concealed by the Mandela Legacy, so loved and defended by the beneficiaries of colonial crimes.


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