SAfrica: Zuma seeks ban on artwork; vandals hit

After the painting was defaced, a third man spray-painted the first three letters of the word “respect” on a wall near the gallery’s front gate before he was taken away by police, and Naidoo said he, too, would be charged with malicious damage to property and was likely to appear in court Thursday. The man shouted that the gallery had shown the president disrespect.

Back at the courthouse, more than 100 pro-Zuma protesters gathered outside. One, Donavan Cloete, wore a T-shirt with the slogan: “President Zuma has a right to human dignity and privacy.”

“The artist has got his own views on the political situation. He has a right to express himself,” Cloete said. “On the other hand, there’s got to be a line drawn as to what constitutes satire and what constitutes insult.”

But Sophia Morren, a ceramicist who was in the gallery when the painting was defaced, said Zuma had shown little respect for himself. She referred to Zuma’s six marriages _ he currently has four wives _ his 21 children, and his acknowledgment in 2010 that he fathered a child that year with a woman who was not among his wives.

“He’s famous for all his women, all his children. I get exactly what the artist is saying,” Morren said. “Zuma shouldn’t be complaining. Really.”

Zuma was acquitted of rape in May 2006 in the country’s most politically charged trial since the end of apartheid. Trial testimony had raised questions about Zuma’s attitude toward women and whether he had the judgment to govern. Testimony he gave about having unprotected consensual sex with an HIV-positive AIDS activist demonstrated an amazing ignorance about HIV transmission by a man who once headed South Africa’s campaign against the virus.

In his affidavit filed Tuesday, Zuma said he rejected suggestions that speaking out about the painting would “exacerbate the pain I am feeling about the image being publicized widely.

“This argument is similar to suggesting that, inter alia, victims of rape should not complain about the violations they have suffered because doing so will lead to publication of their ordeal. It is suggested therefore that such victims should keep quiet in order to limit public knowledge of their rights.”

The painting is part of an exhibition of Murray’s sculptures and paintings called “Hail to the Thief II.” The ANC denounced the show as an “abuse of freedom of artistic expression.”

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