Court begins hearing 'The Spear' case

By Drum Digital
24 May 2012

The application by President Jacob Zuma and the ANC to have Brett Murray's painting "The Spear" removed from City Press's website and from display at the Goodman Gallery, began in the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.

The painting depicts the president with his genitals exposed.

A full bench began by hearing a last minute application by Saleem Ebrahim attorneys to be a friend of the court. Judge Neels Claassen dismissed the application, and the two other judges of the full bench agreed.

Zehir Omar, of the Society for the Protection of the Constitution, had introduced himself to the court during the customary introductions, but was stopped and told this was not possible as he was not part of the proceedings.

Earlier a huge team of lawyers and television technicians set up for the application at court 6E. However, before proceedings could begin, some of the attorneys began complaining there was not enough space for them in the small court room, and they were unhappy with having to instruct their advocates from the public gallery.

Access to court itself was strictly controlled with security searching bags on entry.

Included in the public gallery were ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and George Moyo, who was out on bail for allegedly spray painting part of the word "respect" on the wall of the Goodman Gallery.

The ANC application includes a demand that City Press remove images of "The Spear" from its website, that the Goodman Gallery remove the painting, and destroy promotional material.

The painting itself was defaced at the Goodman Gallery on Tuesday when Barend la Grange was filmed painting a red cross over the genital area and face, and Louis Mabokela smeared black paint over the face and the rest of the body. They face charges of malicious damage to property.

However, the ANC said it would press on with the case. It maintains the painting violated Zuma and the ANC's right to dignity, in terms of the Constitution.

City Press is defending publication on the grounds of freedom of expression.

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