Ayanda Mabulu is no stranger to controversy. He has depicted Nelson Mandela both as a Nazi and as having graphic intercourse with former president Jacob Zuma, and has painted public figures including Atul Gupta and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu either semi-naked or performing sexual acts.
On Wednesday, he took on disgraced Steinhoff former CEO Markus Jooste, depicting him receiving oral sex surrounded by AWB symbols and swastikas, together with the late AWB leader, Eugene Terrblanche, with his pants down next to a naked black child hanging.
It was widely reported he was arrested after he displayed the painting outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, complete with pig heads at its base.
Some have since questioned why Mabulu was arrested. Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos took to Twitter to ask: “What is the legal basis for arrest? Police can’t just arrest you because they do not like your art. Only if you broke the law.”
What is the legal basis for arrest? Police can't just arrest you because they do not like your art. Only if you broke the law. Ayanda Mabulu arrested at JSE while displaying his latest artwork https://t.co/mEOtVLQzJe via @TimesLIVE
— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) December 13, 2018
Social media, meanwhile, has noticed the artist was arrested for the first time after depicting white people. His most controversial paintings before this focused mainly on black politicians.
While the arrest, if indeed he was arrested (police have denied this), may have been because of where it was displayed rather than its contents, many on social media feel there is a double standard at play.
So, Ayanda Mabulu drew President Zuma; President Mandela; exposing their genitals and he only got bashed.
He drew Markus Jooste and Eugene; exposing their genitals and he is jailed.
Clearly, the seat of power is now in the open for those who didn't see it before.
— Hosi Xai (@Hosi_Xai) December 13, 2018
So Ayanda Mabulu was arrested for a painting that mocks why-peepo but was applauded when he was mocking JZ. When people cried out in defense of Zuma it was said freedom of speech for the artist…where’s it now when he’s painting Markus Jooste….
— Qubulashe, Sondzaba, Mjoli, Wushe (@Mag1do) December 13, 2018
Remember when Ayanda Mabulu drew Former Presidents Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela? We were told it's Art, Satire, Figurative.. etc…
It's no longer art when he draws white people huh? They've thrown him straight to jail. Hypocrisy. ???? pic.twitter.com/om3aW9llla
— uNdlunkulu Xoli ???? (@uNdlunkulu_Xoli) December 12, 2018
— Lukhanyo Vangqa (@LukhanyoV) December 12, 2018
His arrest was questioned by his spokesperson, Sipha Kema, according to IOL.
“How is he arrested for this particular painting? What about his other paintings, which were actually [more] controversial. Why was he arrested by law enforcement? It wasn’t just questioning, he was held on two charges?” she asked.
Police spokesperson Kay Makhubela, meanwhile, told News24 he was not, in fact, arrested.
“He was not arrested. He was removed from where he was exhibiting his work. The reason for the removal was because he was not permitted to display his artwork there. He was warned not to return there, it was not an arrest, it was a removal,” he said.