Joburg streets closed for Zuma court bid

By Drum Digital
22 May 2012

Several streets around the High Court in Johannesburg will be closed on Tuesday to allow ANC members to protest, the city's metro police said.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said sections of Pritchard and President streets would be closed off.

"The roads will be closed because of the ANC protest. They will re-open after 3pm."

The court will hear an application by the ANC to compel the Goodman Gallery to take down a 1.85m-high painting titled "The Spear", which is part of Brett Murray's "Hail to the Thief II" exhibition. The party was also trying to stop City Press from displaying a photo of it on its website.

Earlier on Tuesday, the ANC Women's League's Gauteng branch called on its members to "heed the call of the ANC" and support the court action.

"No South African, despite the office they occupy, deserves such disrespect and only a perverse mind would draw such malicious depictions," the league said in a statement.

"We condemn the art work with the contempt that it deserves and hope that Brett Murray will use this time to do some much needed introspection on his values and ethics as a human being."

The ANC called on its members to gather outside the court "to defend the dignity, reputation and integrity of the president of the ANC".

The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that a spokesman for the Nazareth Baptist Church, Enoch Mthembu, has called for Murray to be stoned.

"This man has insulted the entire nation and he deserves to be stoned to death. What he did clearly shows his racist upbringing because art does not allow people to insult others."

The ANC served the gallery and the City Press with court papers of Friday.

"These court papers are seeking to interdict both parties from displaying and exhibiting on their website or any other platform, including the online channels, the offensive and distasteful so-called portrait," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said.

The Cape Times reported on Tuesday that Murray did not intend to harm anyone with the painting.

"I never intended the artwork to cause any hurt or to harm the dignity of any person," he said in a responding affidavit to Zuma's court application.

He said his work was "an attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy within the context of other artworks in the exhibition and within the broader context of South African discourse".

The gallery has rejected ANC demands to take the painting down, saying it would stay until the show was over. City Press has also refused to comply.

"Members of the ANC, supporters and the mass democratic movement structures are requested to converge at Kruis Street, in Johannesburg as from 10am as an act of solidarity to the president and the ANC," the ruling party said.

The painting has been widely condemned by, among others, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, the presidency and the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

Meanwhile, the Film and Publication Board still had to decide if "The Spear" needed to be removed. Its classifiers visited the gallery on Monday following complaints from members of the public.

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