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Painting oversteps constitutional rights - Zuma

Jacob Zuma says a controversial portrait of him has overstepped his rights to dignity and privacy.

The Spear - Cropped. Picture: Stephen Grootes/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has said while he respects the right to freedom of expression and artistic creativity, a controversial portrait of him has overstepped the marks of these constitutional rights.

Fierce debate erupted this week over Brett Murray's painting, The Spear, which depicts Zuma with his genitals exposed.

South Africans have shared different views on the artwork via social networks.

The president and the African National Congress (ANC), will approach the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday, to ask for an urgent interdict against the Goodman Gallery and City Press newspaper,the presidency wants the artwork removed from the exhibition and the image deleted from the City Press website.

Lawyers for Zuma will argue that that the artwork breaches the president's and the ANC's constitutional rights to dignity and privacy.

The artwork sparked public outrage on Thursday, after the City Press published it last week.

In an affidavit to the newspaper, Zuma said the image depicts him as "a philanderer, a womaniser and one with no - respect".

Zuma said he felt "personally offended and violated" when he saw the artwork.

Zuma's children also came to his defence on Saturday, calling the painting "vulgar".

Meanwhile a member of the ministerial task team, which wrote the amended Films and Publications Act of 1996, said as much as art plays an important role in creating new views in society, there are boundaries.

Kobus van Rooyen said it is now up to the court to decide.

"Art, if it's bona fide art, would always save a publication."

But van Rooyen said if one questions privacy, dignity and freedom of speech, according to the Constitution, "there is always a balancing of rights".

The Goodman Gallery insists that the controversial painting shows democracy at work.

The gallery's lawyer, Pamela Stein, said the gallery cannot give up its right to decide what art will hang on its walls.

"In this case, the ANC's right to condemn the work is acknowledged as much as the artist's right to display it."

Murray's Hail to the Thief II exhibition is on display at the gallery until 16 June.