It will all be sorted out, says murder-accused artist Zwelethu Mthethwa
The news of artist Zwelethu Mthethwa’s arrest for murder has left his gallerist reeling.
“I am most shocked by the news – and I am not often a person who has the wind taken out of my sails,” said Mark Read, director of the Everard Read Gallery, who represents Mthethwa in Johannesburg.
Die Burger on Saturday reported that 52-year-old Mthethwa was captured on CCTV on April 13 this year getting out of his car in a street in Woodstock, Cape Town, approaching a woman – possibly a sex worker – and hitting her repeatedly.
When she fell to the ground he reportedly started kicking her. She died from the assault.
Said Read: “I heard about the report in the paper on Saturday. It was totally news to me. I had just seen Zwelethu last week. I know nothing about it.”
Repeated calls by City Press to the celebrated artist’s phone numbers have gone unanswered today and yesterday, but Read says he did have a brief phone conversation with Mthethwa since the report appeared.
“He was keen to say that it will all be sorted out,” says Read.
“He seemed more worried about thousands of other people stressing about him than about himself. I offered him emotional support.”
When asked if Mthethwa had confirmed or denied he had assaulted the woman, Read said that it was not for him to ask that question.
“Whatever happened, whoever did it, the only thing I can say is that it is a tragedy that this poor woman died under violent circumstances.”
Mthethwa’s lawyer, William Booth, confirmed that his client had been arrested and was released on bail. He said he had not yet received the evidence as the police were still investigating.
The art community, meanwhile, has responded with equal amounts of anger and incredulity to the news. Many have questioned why it took so long for the story to appear in the press.
Die Burger says the paper received a tip-off about the case and then tracked the court documents. News editor Aldi Schoeman says her reporters have seen the charge sheet.
Mthethwa, apparently also identified by an eyewitness at the scene, was arrested for murder on May 5 and appeared in court the next day. He was released on bail of R100 000 and is due to appear in court again on August 26.
Some associates of Mthethwa, however, have told City Press they believe the case could be mistaken identity.
They say they had met or chatted with the clean-living artist since the murder and saw no signs of anything unusual or stressed about his behaviour.
Several female artists, however, have spoken out on social networks about the plight of the dead woman – likening the case to the Reeva Steenkamp tragedy where all the focus – sympathy even – is on the famous man in the story and the victim is unrepresented in the media.
The police have not yet revealed her name or age.
Police spokesperson André Traut said the matter was before the court and no further detail could be provided.
» This story was updated after first published to add the comment of Mthethwa’s lawyer and the police.