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Fri Nov 28 17:45:24 SAST 2014

Church digs in its heels

MHLABA MEMELA | 23 May, 2012 00:41
Two men photograph the vandalised painting of President Jacob Zuma at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. File photo.
Image by: ELIZABETH SEJAKE

Lawyers acting for the artist behind the controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma will apply for an interdict to force one of the country's biggest churches to stop calling for violence against Brett Murray.

Webber Wentzel lawyer Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti yesterday asked the Nazareth Baptist (Shembe) Church and its spokesman Enoch Mthembu to retract a statement calling for Murray to be stoned to death for the painting in which Zuma's genitals were exposed.

"We engaged Mthembu with a request to publicly retract the statement, but he has refused to do so. We will be preparing a court application against him and the church to force them to retract.

"Our client is very concerned with the church's statements considering that it is the biggest church in the country and this might incite its members to harm our client," she said.

The church membership is between 4million and 6million.

Ampofo-Anti said Mthembu's statement amounted to hate speech.

Yesterday, Mthembu stuck to his guns .

"He [Murray] can go to the highest court in the land. I will never withdraw the statement because I was talking in the African perspective. And there is no hate speech to what we said. If he insults the president, he will do the same to our church leaders one day who are married to many women," said Mthembu.

He said the church did not regret calling for Murray to be stoned to death.

"A person who committed such a serious sin deserves to be stoned to death. And that is according to the church constitution, the Bible, which guides us."

"Murray must account for his evil towards black people," he said.

Mthembu said his traditional leader is married to 20 wives and his father had four.

"And if the painting is not challenged this man will paint my father and the church leader one day in the same way he depicted our president. The problem with Murray is his upbringing and too much hatred against black people."

Mthembu, a former journalist, said he loved art but had not seen any of Murray's work which "disrespected the actions of apartheid government".

"If he did, it was the minimum. Now he has committed an evil [act] and deserves to be stoned to death."

The South African Human Rights Commission called yesterday for South Africans to respect the court proceedings and refrain from inciting violence.

Its spokesman, Vincent Moaga, said it has not received any complaints against the painting .

"As from Monday, there were no complaints to the commission. But it concerns us how people have behaved in the whole thing. People should wait for the process that had been started to be completed. It is not correct to incite violence, calling for people to be killed. At the moment, there is a legal process and court case and we urged people to respect those processes," he said.

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