Spear vs City Press battle intensifies
Sunday newspaper City Press says it will be impossible to remove the controversial portrait of President Jacob Zuma from its website.
It was responding to an application by Zuma and the ANC in the Johannesburg High Court to have The Spear removed from the Goodman Gallery in Joburg and the newspaper’s website.
The case begins on Tuesday, with the ANC urging its members to protest outside.
The Spear, by Brett Murray, is a portrait of Zuma in a classic Lenin pose with his genitals exposed.
City Press executive editor Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya said in court papers: “Subsequent to the ANC media statement and because of it and the present application, the portrait is now available on at least 10 SA websites and on websites in at least 15 foreign countries.” The portrait had also been posted on social media and the paper and the gallery could not control its distribution. Moya said the newspaper “did what we are constitutionally entitled and obliged to do”.
“We reported on and reviewed an interesting and remarkable exhibition that marks a renaissance in protest art, which we are tracking. In doing so, we neither sought to endorse nor adopt the messages conveyed by the exhibition or the portrait.
“Rather, we allowed the public to judge the matter for itself,” Moya said.
He said Zuma’s application was flawed because “there is no basis or precedent in law for an order of this sort”. “Even if the order were legally permissible in theory, it would not be permissible here where it cannot be effective. The publication of the portrait by City Press is lawful and does not breach any applicant’s constitutional rights in light of well-established defences in our law,” Moya said.
Also in an affidavit filed at court, the owner of the Goodman Gallery, Liza Essers, said she opposed the application by Zuma to remove the portrait.
“The reason I am opposing this application is because, as a gallerist, my role is to keep an open neutral space for my artists and my audiences, sympathetic and critical alike. In deciding what work to show, the Goodman Gallery does not consider the artist’s political, social or religious views. Providing a space for this exhibition does not mean the gallery sees the world in the way that Murray does. My personal views are irrelevant,” she said, adding that the gallery never meant personal offence to Zuma or his family.
The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has filed an affidavit with the court in support of City Press. Chairman Mondli Makhanya said Sanef supported City Press in reporting on and publishing images of Murray’s works at the Goodman Gallery.
“It seems to me… publication of the portrait… amounted to both fair comment and legitimate criticism.”
Will the painting be classified?
The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is still to decide on whether the portrait depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed should be classified.
“Our classifiers have been at the gallery already. We are compiling a report… A decision will be communicated once the process is finalised,” FPB spokesman Mlimandlela Ndamase said on Monday.
The portrait, on display in Joburg’s Goodman Gallery, was criticised, by among others Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.
Radebe has suggested a case of crimen injuria be opened.
The daughter of the late ANC veteran Oliver Tambo showed little sympathy for Zuma’s complaint about the artwork, The Star reported on Monday.
“This portrait is what he inspired. Shame neh!’’ Tselane Tambo posted on a social networking site.”