Anger at maidens’ breasts at Zulu coronation
‘Newzroom Afrika should have had nudity warning’
Zulu maidens who showed their breasts at the coronation of King Misuzulu sparked a complaint to the broadcasting watchdog.
Viewer Tlotliso Mphuthi said Newzroom Afrika should have broadcast a warning that its live coverage would contain nudity. He told the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA that children might have been harmed by the coverage, but the news channel brought in a Zulu cultural expert to bolster its defence.
This month, the watchdog rejected Mphuthi’s complaint and said “the need to be able to embrace each other’s diversity remains an imperative task within the democratic South Africa”.
In his complaint, Mphuthi said he watched the coronation a between 5pm and 8pm on August 20.
“There were scenes of women/Zulu maidens with breasts not covered and at some point children had their breasts showing and their bums showing,” he said.
The absence of a warning from the channel, or an age restriction, contravened a clause in the broadcasting code of conduct relating to “nudity, sexual conduct, violence or offensive language”.
In its response, Newzroom Afrika said the coronation was of great public, cultural and traditional significance and included Zulu maidens in traditional attire. “It is the tradition and culture of the AmaZulu nation that maidens bare their breasts when dressed in their traditional attire,” it said.
“[The AmaZulu culture] does not view the showing of breasts as ‘nudity’ or for the purpose of simulating sexual arousal … but as a practice firmly entrenched in the cultural norms and customs of the AmaZulu nation and many other African cultures.”
Tolerance of different views and cultural diversity was a corollary of the constitutional right to freedom of expression, said Newzroom Afrika legal executive Melissa Behr and news director Katy Katopodis.
Broadcasting the coronation only within the watershed period, when children were assumed to be asleep, “would be tantamount to saying children need to be protected from the practices and traditions of the AmaZulu culture. This would foster a culture of intolerance towards cultural diversity.”
Zulu cultural expert Musa Xulu told the commission that in an ancestral introduction ceremony, “Zulu maidens are expected to dress the way that they did, as women are considered a stronghold of cultural sustainability”.
The three-person commission panel said the broadcast featured “one of the most memorable events within the Zulu nation’s history [and] … attracted immense viewership across all races globally”.
“…it was the depiction of a cultural event without any innuendo of sexual undertones or sexual arousal, which the code prohibits. ”