File picture: Independent Media

Cape Town - The landmark court battle between the Cape Party and the Iziko South African National Gallery over the controversial 'F**k White People' exhibit has come to an end.

Chief Magistrate DM Thulare has ruled that a controversial poster with the words "F**k White People"' was not in contravention of South Africa's hate speech laws and that it was an expression of art.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Thulare found that  "the work in general, and the words 'F**k White People' in particular, as used by Dean Hutton in his protest art, is no unfair discrimination on the ground of race as envisaged in section 7 of the Act". 

The chief magistrate added: "It is not hate speech as prohibited by section 10 of the Act and its dissemination, publication and display by the respondent is not prohibited as envisaged in section 12 of the Act".

Thulare dismissed the complaint, which was brought to the Equality Court in the Magistrates' Courts for the District of Cape Town, by Cape Party leader, Jack Miller. The chief magistrate, however, did not make any order on costs.

Dean Hutton’s F*** White People exhibition at the Iziko National Gallery in the city centre. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA Picture

Riled by the ruling, Miller, whose party is calling for the independence of the Western Cape, on Wednesday said: "It is beyond belief that such a simple and obviously offensive statement could be so misinterpreted and condoned in a court of law".

Jeremy Klerck, the lawyer for Iziko South African National Gallery, where the work was displayed, applauded the ruling, saying, "This is a landmark decision. It came to the defence of freedom of speech. And it came to the defence of artistic expression."