ANC welcomes full bench in Zuma matter

2012-05-22 15:43

The ANC “fully welcomes” the South Gauteng High Court’s decision to have a full bench of judges hear the urgent application by President Jacob Zuma and his party for the removal of Brett Murray’s The Spear from the Goodman Gallery and its image from the City Press’s website.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement released this afternoon that the decision “demonstrates that ‘this matter is of national importance and public interest’ as articulated by the presiding Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane”.

Mthembu said the party considers Zuma’s depiction in the “art work” as one which “violates the dignity as well as being a affront to the image, reputation and standing of the President”.

“It is ... our view that this distasteful, vulgar, indecent, disrespectful and insulting piece of work cannot be defended on the basis of the freedom to artistic expression. The freedom to artistic expression is not a super right that is meant to undermine other rights, particularly the right to human dignity and privacy,” he said.

Earlier today, ANC members gathered outside the Johannesburg court in support of the party and its president.

Mthembu called on members to return to the court on Thursday when the matter will be heard.

Just before noon, two men were detained by Goodman Gallery security guards after significantly damaging the portrait by painting over Zuma’s head and genitals on the painting with oil paint.

The two men were arrested on charges of malicious damage to property and will appear in the Hillbrow Magistrates Court on Thursday.

A third man was questioned after apparently trying to spray-paint “respect” on a gallery wall.

The detention of the two, a 58-year-old and a 25-year-old man, was filmed by The younger black man was head-butted, body-slammed and held in a choke-hold by the security guard while the older white man was being interviewed.

Mthembu said: “We have been informed that the offending piece of art has been defaced.

While we cannot condone any action that is not legal, we equally do not condone the assault of the African young man who is a suspect in this matter.

“It is very contrasting and concerning that another suspect who happens to be a white South African was not assaulted but was treated with dignity as he was arrested.”

Mthembu said it was “this type of behaviour on the part of Goodman Gallery and its security that might need to be further explained”.

“Are we still living in apartheid South Africa, where blacks are treated differently from their white counterparts?” he asked.

“Would the same question not been asked of the artists, the gallery and the piece of insulting work before our Courts?” After this morning’s drama, the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank was quiet this afternoon. Security guards were turning away disappointed but curious visitors, mostly the elderly and students. Journalists including those from international agencies such as AFP gave up about an hour after the third suspect was arrested around lunchtime. A few police officers and armed security guards watched over the gallery’s main entrance.
View the story "ANC goes to court over Zuma’s jewels" on Storify

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