Panafrican News Agency

South Africa: South African court to determine the value of Mandela's smile

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) – If South African photographer, Shaun Earl Harris, and his agency, PictureNet Africa, win a high-profile court case against the South African government they will learn just how valuable Nelson Mandela’s smile is. 


The world statesman who died in 2013 flashed his famous smile at the presidential residency in Pretoria in 1999 while meeting then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. 


He told City Press newspaper about the moment that changed his life. “He greeted me and I asked if I could take a photograph. He said I could. He took two steps to the left and gave a big smile, directly at the camera.”


Harris’ drama began when the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) allegedly removed his name from the copyright photograph and sent it to hundreds of e-mail addresses, granting permission to use the image ahead of Mandela’s funeral. 


The problem was Harris and PictureNet had sold the image to the GCIS for US$2,000 with an agreement that it could only be used in a book and at Mandela’s funeral for the memorial programmes.


Harris and his legal team claim it was unlawfully reproduced at least 58 million times as it went viral on the internet. It was used in advertisements, magazines, on billboards for shirt designs as well as a postal stamp in Papua New Guinea. 


Harris who tried for several years to resolve the matter out of court, is now seeking damages of between US$66 million and US$312 million – depending on the court’s findings on the value of the image.


PANA reports that by comparison, Leronardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, has the highest ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, it was assessed at US$100 million in 1962 and, taking inflation into account its current value would be about US$830 million.


Harris who has Jamaican parents was born in England in 1963. In I994, he travelled to South Africa as a freelance journalist to cover the country’s historic first democratic election and he emigrated the following year.


Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, Mandela received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize, and became a cult figure around the world. He is still held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is referred to as "the father of the nation".

-0- PANA CU/VAO 7Aug2019