ANC Supporters gathered at the Johannesburg high Court under a strong police presense to show there disaproval of the painting depicting him showing his genitals. Picture: antoine de Ras, 22/05/2012

The ANC has welcomed a decision by the High Court in Johannesburg to have a full Bench hear its urgent application about a painting of President Jacob Zuma.

The artwork - depicting Zuma with his private parts exposed - violated the president's dignity and affronted his image, reputation and standing, the African National Congress said.

It is seeking the removal of the painting from the Goodman Gallery.

“We have brought this application... because we believe that the right to human dignity and privacy of comrade President Zuma has been grossly violated,” it said.

These rights were protected and guaranteed by the Constitution.

The ANC had approached the courts to establish whether the freedom to artistic expression was above the freedom to human dignity and privacy.

“We also want to get certainty that artists or satirists are not above our Constitution and therefore cannot demean and insult anybody with impunity.”

The ANC called on supporters to come out in large numbers to defend the movement, as a group did outside the court earlier in the day.

It condemned the assault of a black man, who was arrested earlier, for defacing the painting, and noted that a white suspect was not similarly assaulted.

Three people are being held for alleged offences relating to Brett Murray's painting “The Spear”.

Two of them allegedly defaced the picture with red and black paint, obscuring the face and waist of the figure.

A third was arrested for apparently trying to spray the word “respect” on a wall of the Goodman Gallery.

Inside the gallery, discussions were being held on whether the painting should be taken away by the police to be used as evidence on Thursday, or whether it should stay in the gallery.

“The gallery owner and police are discussing whether the gallery will allow the painting to be taken away, and that point is under negotiation at the moment,” said the gallery's lawyer, Greg Palmer.

The Film and Publication Board will take submissions on Tuesday night from parties, including the gallery, as it reacts to complaints and decides whether the painting should be classified.

Board spokesman Prince Mlimandlela Ndamase said it would go ahead in spite of Tuesday's turn of events, because images of the original picture were still widely available on the internet. - Sapa