Zapiro back in ANC’s sights

South Africa’s best-known cartoonist, Zapiro, could again be facing legal action by the African National Congress (ANC) following the publication of a new cartoon of President Jacob Zuma.

In Zapiro’s latest cartoon in the Mail & Guardian newspaper, published on June 10, Zuma is portrayed with his belt unbuckled, while ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe holds a woman depicting press freedom. “Lady Justice” is also drawn, and shouts: “Fight, sister, fight!!”

The cartoon is a comment on the ruling party’s Protection of Information Bill and the proposed media appeals tribunal.

In the original “Raping Justice” cartoon — which appeared in the Sunday Times on September 7 2008 — Zuma was shown loosening his trousers standing over a female figure representing the justice system, while ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and Mantashe, who are holding down Lady Justice, look on, saying: “Go for it, boss.”

Zapiro and the Sunday Times are being sued for R5-million for that cartoon.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu told the M&G on Monday that the party not only thought the cartoon in the M&G was in bad taste, but it brought down the dignity of the president.

“We are disgusted by the cartoon,” he said. “We believe in the freedom of the press and freedom of expression and we can’t stop people expressing their opinion. It is the [cartoon’s] depiction more than the message.”

He said the party would be seeking legal advice on how to deal with the matter, “considering it’s not the first time”.

“We think it borders on defamation,” he said, adding that the ruling party was not seeking to muzzle the press.

Sokutu was quoted as saying in the Die Burger on Sunday that Zapiro, whose real name is Jonathan Shapiro, should rather focus his attention on practising his profession within the boundaries of ethical journalism.

Speaking to the M&G on Monday, Shapiro said he felt Sokutu’s comment was ironic because he, along with many other people, was deeply concerned about the ethics of the current government.

He also said the last thing he wanted to do was to deliberately offend women.

“That’s the one concern I had in 2008. I sent a rough draft [of the cartoon] to a couple of women journalist friends of mine — to try to figure out if they thought it worked, and they saw what I was trying to do.

“I wasn’t worried about offending the people I portrayed as aggressors in the cartoon. My sense was that women and rape survivors saw what I was trying to do. The majority of people I encountered on radio and in other comments thought I was showing empathy and understood the metaphor. This is a metaphor which is also a very appropriate one in South Africa, where there is so much violence against women.”

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