Why I did it, Zuma vandal explains

2012-05-23 15:50
Johannesburg - One of the men accused of vandalising a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma said he thought a white person should remove the painting, as it was created by a white person and the gallery was owned by a white person.

Barend la Grange, 58, and Louis Mabokela, 25, are accused of defacing Brett Murray's painting The Spear at the Goodman Gallery on Tuesday.

There was no doubt the painting created racial tension and the Goodman Gallery was ignorant of that tension, which existed in South Africa, said La Grange.

He wanted to diffuse the racial tension the painting had generated.

As the painting was created by a white person and the gallery was owned by a white person, he thought it right that a white person should remove it.

"We all have to respect one another... that is how democracy works."

He said he was ready to face the consequences of his actions. He had taken a "calculated risk".

"What I did was against my nature. I had no right to do what I did."

15 seconds

La Grange said after his appearance that the gallery and the artist had the right to display the painting, but once their point had been made, the painting should have been taken down.

"A High Court must get involved for a painting? It took me 15 seconds to get rid of the painting," he said.

He said earlier on Wednesday his action was a political statement. It was not about art but rather a political issue which had become a race issue.

"It was my spoilt ballot paper," La Grange said.

He said he did not know the other man accused of smearing black paint over the work and he only met him after they were both arrested.

"There was no conspiracy."

Co-accused Mabokela, accompanied by his uncle and a group of ANC supporters outside the court, said he was covering the insult to President Jacob Zuma.

"I was covering the insult to the president. They insult the president. It's my president. It's an insult to us, [to] all people."


The matter was postponed to 28 June in the Hillbrow Magistrate's Court for further investigation.

Both men's bail of R1 000 was extended. They face charges of malicious damage to property.

A third person, George Moyo, was arrested for spray-painting on a wall outside the Goodman Gallery. He appeared in the Hillbrow Magistrate's Court separately on Wednesday and also got R1 000 bail.

The gallery, in Rosebank, was temporarily closed to the public on Tuesday. It was still closed on Wednesday morning. Owner Liza Essers said the move was prompted by numerous threats and the vandalism.

On Thursday the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg will hear an ANC application to have the painting taken down.

Essers said the The Spear had generated a debate that clearly engaged with important legal and constitutional issues.

"I furthermore never imagined that this debate would transform into harmful physical action. This is over and above questions of political power, which formed part of its original dialogue."

The gallery had recognised how divided the country had become over the painting.

"We must take cognisance of all responses to our exhibitions and do not value one opinion above another."

The painting was defaced with red and black paint, obscuring Zuma's face and waist.
Read more on:    goodman gallery  |  louis mabokela  |  jacob zuma  |  brett murray  |  barend la grange  |  johannesburg  |  zuma painting

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