3 vandals, a guard, a gallery and a painting

2012-05-23 17:05

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Johannesburg - Four people appeared in court on Wednesday on charges related to a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

Businessman George Moyo was the first to appear in the Hillbrow Magistrate's Court after the first three letters of the word "respect" were spray-painted on a white wall of the gallery, off Jan Smuts Avenue, on Tuesday afternoon.

Then, Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela appeared in court after La Grange was filmed by e.tv brushing red paint over parts of the portrait that led Zuma and the ANC to initiate court action to have the painting removed.

The painting depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed.

Mabokela was filmed a few minutes later smearing black paint with his hands over Zuma's face and other parts of the painting.

Outrage at assault

Each of the three left the court on bail of R1 000 with Moyo due to return on June 14 and La Grange and Mabokela on June 24.

Then, gallery security guard Paul Molesiwa, who had been filmed head-butting and flipping Mabokela to the floor, was arrested and appeared in the same court on an assault charge, laid by Mabokela on Tuesday evening.

Outrage greeted the treatment of Mabokela compared with the apparent gentle handling of La Grange, with many commenting on Facebook and talk radio that this was race-based discrimination.

Molesiwa would return to court on May 28.

Meanwhile, three judges of the South Gauteng High Court will hear the application by Zuma, the ANC and some of Zuma's children to have the painting removed from the gallery and an image of it removed from City Press's website.

Matter has been escalated

City Press is opposing removing the image and the matter has been escalated to a freedom of expression issue.

The Film and Publications Board will also hold hearings next Tuesday to decide whether the painting, still alive in cyberspace, needs to be classified as pornography.

There was no further word on Wednesday on whether Enoch Mthembu, a spokesperson for the Nazareth Baptist Church, will retract a statement that Murray should be "stoned" because of the work.

Meanwhile. commentators showed signs of tiring of the subject, with AfriForum saying the painting was offensive and in poor taste.

"It is, however, unfortunate that this matter is playing out within the context of the ANC's selective morality regarding human dignity," said AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel.

The party was preparing to appeal a ruling against the singing of a lyric that translates to "shoot the boer", but was offended when their leader's dignity was violated, he continued.

Cannot be tolerated

Kriel said it was a pity the message in Murray's other work of the corruption and moral decay in the ANC had been undermined by the "humiliating" painting.

The Black Lawyer's Association (BLA) rejected the "scholastic" arguments on freedom of expression put forward in support of displaying the portrait, saying it bordered on serious disrespect to Zuma and violated his rights.

"Our view would equally hold for any living human being, let alone the president," said BLA president Busani Mabunda.

It offends African culture, and cannot be tolerated, Mabunda said. "If anything, the conduct is almost an equivalent of subjecting an individual to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

The Media Review Network (MRN) likened the controversy to that of outrage caused by cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

In this particular case the real issues were freedom of expression against the right to dignity, MRN chairperson Zaakir Ahmed Mayet said.

"We as the Media Review Network question the wisdom behind such a painting as it has only produced divisions within our community, impaired dignity and has failed dismally in forwarding society towards justice and freedom both at home and abroad."

On Tuesday the gallery said the painting would be moved, but further information was not available on Wednesday.
- SAPA
Read more on:    goodman gallery  |  louis mabokela  |  jacob zuma  |  george moyo  |  brett murray  |  barend la grange  |  johannesburg  |  zuma painting
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