The incident has intensified a heated debate about the artwork that has enraged the ruling African National Congress. Television footage showed a white middle-aged man in a suit walking up to the portrait at a Johannesburg gallery and painting a red cross on president’s face and private parts.
While the man was being taken into custody by security guards, another younger man smeared black paint over the picture. Zuma and his African National Congress (ANC) have launched a legal bid to have the painting removed from the gallery.
“The portrayal has ridiculed and caused me humiliation and indignity,” Zuma, who has been married six times and fathered 21 children, contended in an affidavit filed with the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
The picture of Zuma, called The Spear, is a facsimile of a famous poster of communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. In the red, black and yellow painting, the president is shown striking Lenin’s heroic stance, but with his penis hanging out of his trousers.
The artist, Brett Murray, is well-known in South Africa for his work criticising the white-minority apartheid government that ended in 1994. The two men were taken into police custody, but police did not comment on what charges they might face.