Bloomberg News

Zuma Painting Defaced at Johannesburg Gallery Amid Court

May 22, 2012

Two men vandalized a painting of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma showing his genitals that is the subject of a court challenge by the ruling African National Congress party.

The men smeared paint on the portrait, known as “The Spear,” at a Johannesburg gallery that depicts Zuma in black, yellow and red in a pose similar to one in which former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin was frequently shown in Soviet propaganda posters, footage broadcast on eNews Channel showed today.

Police arrested two men, one aged 25 and the other 58, for allegedly making crosses with red paint and smearing black paint on the portrait, according to a statement posted on the police’s website. Both will appear in court on May 24 and are likely to face a charge of malicious damage to property, it said.

The South Gauteng High Court postponed an application to May 24 to have the painting removed after the ANC said it infringes on Zuma’s constitutional right to dignity and privacy. The party will continue with its case on principle because the president had been humiliated, spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in an interview.

ANC supporters gathered outside the court to protest against the portrait. The South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, both of which are ANC allies, condemned the image. The gallery had refused to take down the painting, which forms part of artist Brett Murray’s “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition, saying this would be a form of censorship.

‘Disrespectful’

“It’s rude, it’s crude, it’s disrespectful, it’s racist,” Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general, told reporters in Johannesburg yesterday.

Zuma, 70, has four wives and 21 children. He married his latest wife last month and has been divorced once, while another wife died. In February 2010, Zuma confirmed that he fathered a child out of wedlock with the daughter of a friend, prompting the opposition Democratic Alliance party to call for a vote of no confidence against him.

The Johannesburg-based City Press newspaper has kept an image of the painting on its website because ANC demands to remove it are “a march away from progressive politics to patriarchal conservatism,” editor Ferial Haffajee said in an editorial.

The painting had been bought by an unidentified person in Germany for 136,000 rand ($16,450), the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported May 20.

Shower on Head

The picture “was very disgusting and dirty and undignified,” Doris Mdalalose, a 70 year-old unemployed women from Soweto, with a blanket in ANC colors wrapped around her shoulders, said outside the court.

Zuma has sued media organizations several times, including cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro for a cartoon of him preparing to rape Lady Justice, an allusion to rape charges against him and allegations that he was attacking South Africa’s judiciary. Zuma was acquitted of the charges in 2006.

Shapiro has consistently depicted Zuma with a shower attached to his head, a reference to the president’s testimony in the case that he showered after having unprotected sex with the woman to avoid contracting HIV.

“I wouldn’t like it myself, but if the constitution says it’s allowed, then it’s fine,” Stanley Masinga, a 33-year-old accountant in a black suit, said while watching the ANC protest.

Murray’s exhibition also includes a poster of the ANC’s logo with the words “For Sale” stamped across it and a print of Zuma captioned “Cash is King.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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