Charges against gallery spraypainter dropped

2012-07-19 11:02

Charges have been withdrawn against the man who spraypainted part of the word “respect” on the wall of the Goodman Gallery in Joburg during the controversy over “The Spear” painting.

“I’m very pleased it’s over,” said George Moyo outside the court today.

Standing quietly with two other people in the winter sun, the scene was a far cry from the bustle outside the Goodman Gallery on May 23.

It was at the height of a controversy over Brett Murray’s painting hanging inside, which depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

The ANC, which Zuma also presides over, had gone to court to have it removed. As the case was being postponed, word spread that the painting had been defaced.

eNews broadcast footage of Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela separately painting over the genital area and the rest of the painting, which had already been sold to a German collector. They were arrested.

Assault charges were also laid against private security guard Paul Molesiwa regarding the way in which Mabokela was apprehended in the gallery.

That afternoon, while crowds gathered outside in the hopes of getting a glimpse of the defaced painting, Moyo unexpectedly moved out and began spraying the word “respect” on a wall.

He got as far as the letters “res” before he was stopped and later charged with malicious damage.

“My family was very cross. They thought of Andries Tatane. They said I could have had a heart attack,” he said, as he recalls the scuffle of being arrested.

Tatane died during a protest in Ficksburg last year after being struck in the chest by a rubber bullet.

The murder and assault trial of the seven public order policeman charged with his death resumes in August.

The 54-year-old businessman said he did not do it for attention.

“I didn’t even go to Luthuli House and ask to be party to this. Nor was I seeking attention from Zuma,” Moyo said.

Moyo said he was once in charge of registering the ANC’s trademarks on their behalf, as they resurfaced after decades of bannings.

He said he was part of a team that was instrumental in piracy control during the World Cup Rugby of 1995, tasked with making sure merchandise was original.

He was also part of a team that fanned out across the country, clearing the old South African flag to make way for the new one.

He said he also owned the rights to the word “shosholoza” – an isiZulu word meaning “moving forward”.

Companies wanting to trade products using that name had to strike an agreement with him, as Woolworths had previously done for a campaign it once ran.

He feels that protecting intellectual property includes protecting a personal image.

“I believe we really have our property rights as an individual. We all need to be respected,” he said.

“I truly believe no human dignity is for sale.”

He said it was this that motivated him to go to a shop in Rosebank and purchase the spraypaint, and then go on to partially spray the word “respect”.

The statement of withdrawal that the gallery handed in to the court was not immediately available, so the reasons for the withdrawal of charges against Moyo were not immediately available.

The gallery’s spokesperson, Lara Koseff, could not comment immediately.

The painting has since gone to Germany to its buyer.

“It arrived in Germany. It’s with its owner, he’s very happy with it,” said Koseff.

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