Zuma, Zapiro, politics and more

Zapiro, South Africa’s most famous cartoonist, unleashed a storm of controversy in September this year when he drew African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma unbuckling his belt in front of a woman — representing the justice system — who is being held down by leaders of the tripartite alliance.

About 30 000 people read the story, which makes it the most-read article since the Mail and Guardian Online launched its new site in June.

The cartoon touched a nerve in South Africa. Predictably, the ANC, South African Communist Party and the ANC Youth League screamed blue murder, accusing the Sunday Times — the paper in which it first appeared — of abuse of press freedom. They also said it “borders on defamation”.

The waters, for some, were further muddied as Zuma was in the past had up on rape charges, of which he was acquitted. Zapiro said this was “unfortunate” for Zuma in that “he comes with his history [of the rape trial]. But that’s a secondary thing”.

This week Zuma demanded R7-million in damages from Zapiro, the Sunday Times and its holding company over the cartoon.

It was, in many respects, a year that broke the mould. Barack Obama was voted in as president of the United States (and must now deal with a savage global financial crisis), George Bush was pelted with shoes, and a split developed in the ANC, leading, after a few false starts, to a new political party, the Congress of the People, which followed in the wake of former president Thabo Mbeki’s recall.

The world was hungry for news about the new party, which is why more than 14 000 people read the Inside the Shikota movement article.

Cope gathered its supporters in Bloemfontein on December 13 for a conference at which it was decided that Mosiuoa Lekota would indeed lead the party into the elections in 2009. He sang Suikerbossie to the delegates, exhorting them to adopt a non-racial approach. Of course, until very recently, Lekota, and co-founder Mbhazima Shilowa, were part of the ANC, so a degree of healthy scepticism is called for when considering the policies of the new party.

It does, however, appear that Cope really is trying to do things differently. Journalists at the event said they were treated as though they were part of the conference. They were provided with meals and there were regular press briefings, in contrast to the ANC’s conference in Polokwane in December 2007, at which journalists complained of a confrontational attitude by ruling party members.

This was a, to put it mildly, tumultuous year for the ANC. After the steady hand of Mbeki, things seemed to start unravelling at a rapid rate.

In October, Mbeki wrote ANC leader Jacob Zuma a letter, in which he said: “In my president’s report [at Polokwane] I warned of the grave challenges our movement was facing. I suggested that the conference should discuss these. This was not done. Ten months after this report was presented, I still stand by what it said.”

In Zimbabwe, things, if it can be believed, got even worse in 2008.

Almost 17 000 people read the
Award-winning cartoonist Zapiro is in the firing line over a controversial cartoon that appeared in this week’s Sunday Times.

2. SA rocked by resignation of ministers
Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is among 11 Cabinet ministers and three deputy ministers who have resigned.

3. What Mbeki really said
The letter from former president Thabo Mbeki to Jacob Zuma is a stinging attack on the ANC’s criticism of breakaway leader Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, and a critique of the “cult of personality” around Zuma himself.

4. Zuma faces ANC rebellion
ANC president Jacob Zuma will spend the months ahead engaging ANC provincial structures in an attempt to head off what seems to be an internal rebellion in the party, as more ANC members call for an alternative political home.

5. Zimbabwe gold mines face collapse
Zimbabwe’s gold mining industry, Africa’s third biggest nine years ago, is on the brink of “total collapse” because the country’s central bank refuses to pay for the gold it buys from the mines, the mines’ representative body said on Monday.

6. Round one to Zuma
The Scorpions’ decision to prosecute African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma on fraud and corruption charges was not legal, Judge Chris Nicholson found in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday.

7. Inside the Shikota movement
The new party mooted by former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa wants to be a modern party without the pressures of the ideological baggage that the alliance-based ANC has to carry.

8. Mbeki dares Zuma (again)
Stop calling me your friend and comrade in public while stabbing daggers in my back. That’s former president Thabo Mbeki’s message to African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma in papers filed with the Constitutional Court this week.

9. Zuma cartoon: Worth a thousand words?
It seems a picture really is worth a thousand words after cartoonist Zapiro unleashed a storm of controversy this week for depicting Jacob Zuma and other leaders riding roughshod over the country’s justice system.

10. Can Shikota Cope?
A month before its formal launch Mosiuoa Lekota’s Congress of the People (Cope) is facing internal tensions, according to sources in the movement. But the leadership moved speedily this week to brush off talk of divisions as ANC propaganda.

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