A MAGISTRATE lost patience with the police yesterday in a court case arising from the defacing of a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma.
Johan Engelbrecht said the police had one last chance to complete their investigation, or the matter would be struck from the roll.
“This situation has reached alarming proportions,” he said at the appearance of the two accused in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court. I have become tired of complaining about the SA Police Service.”
Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela are accused of defacing artist Brett Murray’s painting The Spear – an acrylic depicting Zuma with his genitals exposed. It was part of Murray’s Hail to the Thief II exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Joburg.
The ANC was alerted to the painting after an article appeared in City Press newspaper. The gallery refused its demand that the painting be removed.
On May 22, La Grange and Mabokela were filmed painting over the already sold work with red and black paint.
They face charges of malicious damage to property. Both are out on R1 000 bail.
La Grange and Mabokela stood in the dock while prosecutor Frederik Bukes said a further postponement would be necessary. This was because the investigating officer had not complied with any of the instructions given at the previous proceedings of May 23.
The investigating officer was not in court, Bukes said, to which Engelbrecht replied, “of course”.
Engelbrecht reacted by saying: “I am alarmed by the fact that the investigating officer has found it necessary to not make himself available today, and not explain why he didn’t comply with the prosecutor’s instructions.
“My concern is that the police in this area have lost their vision and have forgotten that they are there to serve the public.”
Engelbrecht said he could not decide whether the police were sabotaging cases, were lazy, or incompetent.
He likened the situation to police brutality. When people were arrested, they had to pay lawyers and they might have to wait in police cells.
“This is also a form of police brutality. It seems to me that the police do not understand their duty. It is easy to turn the lock of the key in the cell door, but it is not easy to finish the process.”
Engelbrecht said he would not hesitate to the strike the matter off the roll on September 4 if the situation remained the same.
A third man, George Moyo, was arrested for spray-painting “res”, the first syllable of “respect”, on a wall outside the Goodman Gallery.
He appeared in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court separately on Wednesday and was also out on R1 000 bail.
Security guard Paul Molesiwa, who was filmed flipping Mabokela to the ground after he was apprehended, was arrested for assault and is out on R1 000 bail. – Sapa