South Africa court hears Jacob Zuma 'obscene' painting case

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Media caption,

The BBC's Milton Nkosi: ''Jacob Zuma's lawyer burst into tears as he was talking to the judge''

South Africa's ruling party has gone to court to have a controversial painting of the president with his genitals exposed removed from public view.

The actual painting that was on show at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg was vandalised by protesters on Tuesday.

The African National Congress said it was "rude, crude and disrespectful" and wanted all images of the painting online and elsewhere taken down.

A full bench of the South Gauteng High Court is hearing the case.

The BBC's Milton Nkosi at the Johannesburg court says the judges had to adjourn proceedings after President Jacob Zuma's lawyer, Gcina Malindi, broke into tears while talking about the struggle against apartheid.

The ANC is taking action against the gallery and the City Press website.

The case is seen as a choice between freedom of expression and the right to dignity, both of which are protected in South Africa's constitution.

The Spear, a $14,000 (£9,000) acrylic painting by Brett Murray, an artist known for his political and provocative work, has already been sold.

'Millions offended'

The ANC is supporting President Zuma's bid to have the painting removed from public view, whether in real or virtual form.

Hundreds of ANC supporters have gathered outside the court.

Image caption,
Hundreds of ANC supporters have gathered outside the court

Party spokesman Jackson Mthembu told the Sapa news agency: "A lot of people are coming to defend the image of the ANC and Msholozi [Zuma].

"Millions and millions are offended, and those millions are not necessarily black people only. They find it insulting."

On Tuesday, two men went into the gallery and defaced the painting, daubing a red cross on it and smearing it with black paint.

Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela appeared in court briefly on Wednesday, along with George Moyo who is accused of trying to spray-paint the word "respect" on a gallery wall.

In an affidavit served on the City Press newspaper paper, Mr Zuma said he was shocked by the work. "The portrait depicts me in a manner that suggests I am a philanderer, a womaniser and one with no respect," he said.

President Zuma, who has four wives, has sued local media companies 11 times for defamation. Some cases have been settled, others dropped, but most are outstanding.

The best-known case is a 2008 suit against one of the country's most high-profile artists, Zapiro, after he depicted Mr Zuma about to rape a female figure representing justice - this is due to be heard in October.

Mr Zuma was cleared of raping a family friend in 2006.

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