/ 22 July 2011

A spaced-out world view

Jonathan Shapiro has been asked to stop drawing President Jacob Zuma with a shower head sticking out of his head.

With a mandate as confusing as its press releases, and logic as unwieldy as its name, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities claims that it is “constitutionally and legislatively mandated to forge national unity and social cohesion among some of its objects”. Why some, and not others, you might ask? You might also be a little perplexed at the use of the word “objects”, with its implications of ownership and insensateness.

The commission released a statement on Wednesday asking cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro to stop drawing President Jacob Zuma with a shower head sticking out of his head. Apparently it is not in the spirit of ubuntu to kick a man when he’s down. Quite how occupying the role of the president of South Africa can be construed as “down” is left unexplained.

Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, has repeatedly come under fire for depicting President Jacob Zuma with a shower over his head. We take a look at some of these provocative cartoons from the past two years.

The commission, in the person of its chair, Reverend Wesley M Mabuza, appeals “to Shapiro to respect the president of South Africa who is not being helped by these insulting cartoons as he meets other world leaders visiting this country. Let us criticise … but let us do it the ubuntu way. Hate the deed, by all means, but not the doer.”

The almost infantile understanding of how global politicking works is ­ludicrous. Are we to believe that world leaders snigger behind their hands when they meet Zuma, because they are picturing him with a shower head attached? Even more risible is the idea that we should forgive any political figure for a transgression, while deploring the deed.

Reverend Mabuza, the word “accountability” does not, in fact, mean tallying up your bribes. It means you answer for transgressions against the nation.

At the end of the emailed press release the commission has seen fit to append this homily: “Do not be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality, if you dream it you can make it so.” We regret to inform it that this is simply not true. It takes vigilant cultural commentators like Zapiro to ­interrogate that elastic space between democratic aspiration and political corruption, rather than milksops pandering to ideas of unchanging culture and historically entrenched power structures.

Read the first half of the editorial “Will the taxman be next in line?