Zuma ‘Spear’: ANC demand ‘has no legal basis’

2012-05-18 11:24
Charl Blignaut and Loyiso Sidimba
Lawyers acting for City Press have dismissed the ANC’s demands that the newspaper remove satirical artist Brett Murray’s portrait of President Jacob Zuma from its website.

“Your client’s demands have no proper legal basis and any process instituted will be defended,” the paper’s lawyer, Willem de Klerk, said in response to the ANC’s demands.

ANC lawyers Mchunu Attorneys ordered City Press to remove Murray’s portrait, titled The Spear, with immediate effect.

Mchunu Attorneys threatened yesterday to file an urgent application today to force the newspaper to do so.

“The morality of such an image is highly questionable, and we submit, unethical for the editors and managers of City Press or anyone associated with it to exhibit or display,” Mchunu Attorneys said.

“The image is a clear affront to Zuma’s image, dignity and reputation.”

De Klerk said any action instituted by the ANC would be opposed.

Traffic to the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, which has also been instructed to remove the painting by the ANC’s lawyers, has been higher than usual since City Press published the portrait on Sunday.

“Actually it’s insane here this morning,” said Lisa Koseff, a staff member at the gallery.

“I would say this is the biggest response we’ve ever had to an exhibition.”

She said there was huge interest from international media.

The gallery has, through its lawyers, rejected the ANC’s demand.

Goodman Gallery director Liza Essers said it is a sad day for South Africa when creative production is being threatened with censorship from the ruling party.

“We support our artists’ freedom of speech and expression and encourage them to show work that challenges the status quo, ignites dialogue and shifts consciousness,” she said.

Essers said the views expressed by artists were not necessarily those of the gallery.

Murray’s portrait has been sold to a German buyer, who bought other pieces.

The buyer saw the portrait before City Press published it.

This week, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile was due to send a delegation to meet Essers but they never arrived, she said.