Appeal tribunal shreds classification of ‘The Spear’

It cannot impose age restrictions on publications and websites not involved in its classification process. It cannot use the protection of children as a reason  when it wants to protect the dignity of a specific segment of society and may not assume that any nudity in art is automatically harmful to children.

The board erred in a number of respects when it classified the painting, "The Spear", depicting president Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed, as restricted for children under 16, tribunal chairperson  Karthy Govender wrote in a decision that struck down all classifications on Brett Murray's painting.

"It is apparent from the reasoning of the classification committee that it was heavily influenced by the need to affirm the dignity of African males and protect sensitive persons and children." But even though that could perhaps be excused, "given the intensity of the furore", it went beyond the law, the tribunal said.

It also rejected the board's attempts to justify the classification after the fact on the basis that it could harm "children raised with cultural norms and values that find the public display of an African elder's genitals deeply offensive".

Especially with art, the tribunal found, plain nudity is not enough and harm to children has to be more than likely, not just a possibility.

The ruling on "The Spear" comes less than two weeks after the Constitutional Court found unconstitutional a provision that would have required magazines with any sexual content to submit to pre-publication classification.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Marikana: South Africa’s dark heart

New M&G documentary explores what the events on that fateful day tell us about where we stand as a country

EFF Student Command leader Sihle Lonzi says Congress of South...

Media briefed on the resolutions and outcomes of the organisation's fourth national students assembly that took place on Friday

Hlophe goes to court to prevent his suspension

He argues in court papers that the JSC’s advice to the president to suspend him is a violation of the Superior Courts Act

South Africa’s murder rate up 11.5% in the first quarter...

In the same period 9 516 rape cases were opened with the South African Police Service

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…