'The Spear' goes to court

Top lawyers to argue the 'The Spear' in court.

The painting of Jacob Zuma before it was ruined.

JOHANNESBURG - The debate over 'The Spear' painting of Jacob Zuma and his exposed genitalia has not only caused conversations across the nation, but is now to be argued to by some of the country's top lawyers in front of three judges on Thursday morning.

Lawyers for the Goodman Gallery and Brett Murray, advocates David Unterhalter and Carol Steinberg, will argue that they have the right to freedom of expression, that the painting is legitimate criticism and that it is a work of fiction.

They will also say that Jacob Zuma is a public person and thus can be the subject of political art.

Zuma's lawyers, advocates Gcina Malinde and Muzi Sikhakhane, will argue that he has an inherent right to dignity and that he has been defamed by the incident.

Zuma's children's lawyer will also claim that this image is hate speech.

The essence of this case comes down to the balance of the right to freedom of expression against the right to dignity.

On Tuesday it was announced that Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo had decided three judges should hear the case due to its importance.

Judge Fayeeza Kathree Setiloane is one of the judges expected to hear the proceedings on Thursday, while the names of the other two judges have not been officially announced.

Mojapelo is assumed to already have intervened in this matter and may feel that, as a senior judge, it would be appropriate for him to be a part of the panel when the case starts.

The South Gauteng High Court will also see protests as African National Congress (ANC) supporters show their anger at Murray's painting.

The picture itself has been moved from the gallery, after it was defaced on Tuesday by two men who smeared paint over the image.

At the same time, the _City Press _hailed the Film and Publication Board's (FPB) decision to grant media access to its classification committee meeting as a victory for freedom of the press.

The newspaper and the Goodman Gallery will make their representations to the committee after public complaints.

The newspaper's Adrian Basson said the process should be transparent.

"It's an unprecedented move by the Film and Publication Board to want to classify the artwork as pornography and I think the public is entitled to know if it ever comes to such a decision."