Zuma ‘Spear’: ‘Constitution entitles City Press to publish’

2012-05-21 15:36

In publishing the Brett Murray portrait of President Jacob Zuma City Press was doing what it is “constitutionally entitled to do” – reporting on an “interesting and remarkable exhibition that marks a renaissance in protest art”.

This according to City Press executive editor Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya in his affidavit before the South Gauteng High Court.

Moya says the publication of work contained in the exhibition, titled Hail to the Thief II, was a “publication of artistic creativity protected by section 16 (1) of the Constitution”.

He also says, in doing so, “we neither sought to endorse nor adopt the messages conveyed by the exhibition or the portrait. Rather, we allowed the public to judge the matter for itself.”

Zuma and the ANC have applied for an urgent interdict against City Press and the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. They want images of the painting removed from City Press’s website, and the painting itself removed from the gallery.

In his affidavit before court, Zuma said he was “shocked and felt personally violated” when he saw the painting, which he says depicts him as a “philanderer, a womaniser and one with no respect”.

Moya said the interdict, if granted, could not possibly be enforced.

“The horse has long since bolted. As a direct consequence of the media statements made by the applicants and the launch of the present application, the portrait has been given widespread national and international publicity,” he said.

“Subsequent to the ANC media statement and because of it and the present application, the portrait is now available on at least 10 South African websites (none of which are controlled by City Press or Goodman Gallery) and on websites in at least 15 foreign countries ranging from Argentina and Australia to Zambia and Zimbabwe.”

The image, Moya says, has also been posted “countless times” on Facebook and Twitter.

“The order sought by the applicants will not and cannot alter this and, in the circumstances, the order sought simply cannot be effective,” Moya said.
With regards to Zuma and the ANC’s contention that the publication of the exhibition was unlawful as it infringed their Constitutional right to dignity, Moya says that although Zuma has a right to privacy, the painting “did not disclose any private facts about him given that it derives from the artist’s imagination”.

Moya said publication of the image amounted to “legitimate criticism” as it was well known that Zuma had admitted to having extra-marital sex with a family friend, and had fathered a child outside marriage with Sonono Khoza, daughter of Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza.

With regard to Zuma’s assertion that the painting made him appear as “an abuser of power, corrupt and suffer(s) political ineptness”, Moya said the High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court have all found that Zuma had a corrupt relationship with his financial advisor Schabir Shaik and that examples of his “political ineptness” can be found in the recent e-tolling saga and the handling of the matter involving Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.

The South African National Editor’s Forum has supported City Press in its defence, with chairperson Mondli Makhanya saying that the images were not published to raise controversy or to titillate.

“My view is that far from being unlawful or even inappropriate, the publication of the portrait is to be supported. It seems to me that publication of the portrait was undoubtedly reasonable in the circumstances and amounted to both fair comment and legitimate criticism,” Makhanya said.

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