/ 10 July 2012

Zapiro cartoon: What our readers think

Jonathan Shapiro has found himself in hot water again over a controversial cartoon.
Jonathan Shapiro has found himself in hot water again over a controversial cartoon.

Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) has been South Africa's foremost cartoonist on all things President Jacob Zuma. The country is continuously divided on his work, with some seeing it as a warranted social commentary, while others accuse him of denigrating the debate on Zuma's presidency.

Zapiro's latest work in the Mail & Guardian on July 6, whipped the country into a new frenzy over his depiction of the president as an erect penis with a showerhead on his head, standing in front of a mirror at the Goodman Gallery.

The M&G's readers have been airing very contrasting views on the cartoon on our comments forum.

Many have been critical of Zapiro's attitude in targeting Zuma in the majority of his cartoons.

Rocky Zitha wrote, "I respect and admire Zapiro as a political cartoonist but he tends to take things too far when it comes to the president. I mean, the president ain't the best role model, image wise, but he is the president of the country for crying out loud. Not to mention, a husband and a father. Jeez, tone down Zapiro."

Others argued about an apparent lack of foresight.

Anthony Joel said, "I'm no fan of the ANC and view them as a gang of lazy, self-serving, corrupt incompetents who have betrayed their cause and the people of this country. Neither am I particularly fond of Jacob Zuma but the mirrored-penis cartoon of Zuma is just plain crude and childish. Come on, Zapiro, surely you can do better than that! Mock, but mock with finesse."

"Seasoned artists like Zapiro should know better. I think he is deliberately trying to ridicule the president in recreating the Murray's portrait and it is really disrespectful of Zapiro, especially just a few weeks after what the spear has done to the nation as whole. If the art work can be used to the nation healing and building exercise it would really be appreciated rather than it used to discredit certain individuals," wrote Thabo Molishiwa.

Tapdancer47 wrote: "So Zapiro has now taken to insults, I think he's losing it. Cartoons [by great Cartoonists, of course] are usually subtle and a little thought-provoking … not downright genitals-drawing that Zapiro has descended to. I'm no Zuma fan, and I usually enjoy Zapiro's cartoons, but now it seems he's trying hard to get a headline. Not a good look."

Some readers called for Zapiro to apologise for the cartoon.

"Disrespectful indeed. We may criticise the government in whatever way we can, but going to this extent I think it is misguided and an abuse of the freedom of speech that we have in the country. I would advise Jonathan Zapiro to retract and apologise," said Pastor Chris Mukoki.

But other readers lauded Zapiro's work.

"I don't understand why Zuma needs to be "defended" by so many people. By becoming president, he has put himself on the stage for public criticism and satirical cartoons. This is perfectly normal and happens in all countries, not only when racism is involved. Politicians in most democratic countries would not dare to react to criticism by suing and trying to suppress political expression. They might be accused of dictatorial tendencies. In most democratic countries, such a situation would be seen as "the people against the politicians". But not in SA, oh no. Here it immediately becomes "black against white". We're always distracting from the real issue by clouding it with "is this racism," wrote evil puppy.

Draaksteker commented, "This guy has some balls. Zapiro, I mean."

Zinzi Makie said, "As a black female South African, I appreciate what you artists do. Continue being the conscience of this country!!"

"Unfortunately, the only thing memorable thing about Zuma's presidency for years to come will be his penis. Hardly Zapiro's fault," wrote John Hilton Durno.

But the debate also opened the door to more humorous exchanges; as John commented: "Is it possible to rub the spear up the wrong way?"