Barend la Grange isn’t a fan of President Jacob Zuma. He decided to deface a portrait showing Zuma’s genitals because he was “against the way he was portrayed”.
La Grange and Louis Mabokela smeared paint over the controversial painting on display at the Goodman Gallery in Joburg on Tuesday.
The pair didn’t know each other, but had one thing in common: their dislike of the painting known as The Spear.
“It’s an insult. He is a parent,” said Mabokela, 25.
Mabokela had seen the portrait in newspapers, but the genitals were covered.
He then travelled from Tzaneen to Joburg to see the original painting at the gallery.
His action reflected his rage. He said that once he saw the artwork, he felt a surge of anger, left to buy paint for R180 and returned to smear the picture, which he considered to be an insult to Zuma.
Before his brief appearance at the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, Mabokela said he was proud of what he had done.
Smiling broadly, he said: “I feel free because the president is covered already.”
Onlookers took pictures of Mabokela and La Grange, shook their hands and thanked them for defacing the controversial painting.
Three youths approached La Grange, saying they wanted to thank him personally.
“We are behind you.”
A group dressed in ANC regalia shouted “Amandla!” before going to shake La Grange’s hand.
“Wenze umsebenzi omuhle, mfana wami (you did a good job, my boy),” a man said as Mabokela made his way out of the court.
La Grange said it had taken him 15 seconds to put a cross on the painting, which has become the subject of a court battle.
The ANC and Zuma filed an urgent application to have the painting removed from the City Press newspaper’s website and from the Goodman Gallery.
The matter was expected to be heard by a full bench at the Johannesburg High Court this morning.
Throngs of ANC supporters were expected to converge outside the court.
Outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, La Grange appeared to enjoy the attention he and his co-accused were receiving.
The case was postponed to June 28 for further investigation.
Meanwhile, a security guard from the Goodman Gallery was arrested on Wednesday after the young taxi driver laid a charge of assault against him.
And if La Grange was seeking publicity, it wouldn’t be for the first time.
In 2010, he made headlines by taking his politics to the streets – literally – when he put up “For Sale” signs next to potholes in his home suburb of Kempton Park.
He had been imitating a similar incident in Germany, where a town in the state of Thuringia had sold potholes for about R5 000 each, he said.
The mayor of the German town reportedly decided to raise funds in this way as the municipality didn’t have the money to repair all the potholes formed over that winter, Beeld reported.
The names of buyers were to appear on a plaque which was to be placed in the tar once the pothole was filled.
La Grange said at the time that he intended to sell the Kempton Park potholes for R1 each, as there was such an “enormous over-supply” of them.
He felt the Ekurhuleni municipality would address the problem only if it got some publicity.
La Grange has a website, www.elections2009.co.za, which reads as a series of blog posts in English and Afrikaans as a platform for “political discussions for the 2009 elections”.
He said on Wednesday: “I have been advised not to speak publicly until after this first appearance.”
He referred journalists to his website.
“I’m really not the radical political type that some people are making me out to be,” he said.
On Wednesday, he was incorrectly identified in some reports as an art professor. But he describes himself as a businessman and as a “political commentator as a hobby”.
One of his posts has this comment about Zuma: “Leaders must command respect and values that a proud nation would want to identify with. Mr Zuma (is not such a leader).”