JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's governing African National Congress party has criticised a school for displaying students' artwork which "borders on racism".
The exhibition included images of ANC leaders, including President Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela, printed on T-shirts as part of an end-of-year art exam.
The ANC said they ridiculed its leaders with one labelling them "fakers since 1994", when white minority rule ended.
But the school in Durban denied there was any racial motivation behind them.
Headmaster Trevor Hall said Westville Boys's High School in Durban was committed to a "non-racial democratic South Africa" and apologised for any offence caused by the T-shirt images.
The visual art syllabus included a section on social and political commentary, he said.
One of the satirical T-shirts has a picture of Mr Zuma posing as the Bakers man – the emblem of Bakers Biscuits – with the word "Fakers" over his head.
Senzo Mkhize, the ANC's spokesman in KwaZulu-Natal, said such captions were "derogatory".
"It is unacceptable for a school's management to allow individuals with their own agendas to ridicule and insult the leadership of the country in this manner," he said in a statement.
He said the party was made aware of the T-shirts by a member of the public who saw them displayed at a local shopping mall in Durban.
"We view this as an attack on the ANC and on the country since the South African flag [is] featured in the background," Mr Mkhize said, calling on the school to investigate the incident and sanction those behind the designs.
"We cannot allow people who are hell-bent on employing underhand tactics to fuel hatred that reminds us of the dark days of apartheid."
But Mr Hall told South Africa's Daily News paper that "no particular political or social bias is encouraged" during the course.
"Pupils are free to make their own commentary on society, as is their right," he is quoted as saying.
It is not the first time artwork has angered the ANC.
Last year, the governing party demanded that a controversial painting of President Zuma with his genitals exposed be removed from public view.
The artwork caused a furore with some saying President Zuma's right to dignity had been violated, while supporters said it was a question of freedom of expression.
The ANC dropped legal action after the gallery agreed to remove the painting, which was vandalised whilst on display.