Learn respect, Zapiro

To say that I’m angry is to put it mildly. I’m gatvol with you white people taking us blacks for cheap. I do not blame Zapiro for his poor and racist work (July 6).

Imagine if a black artist were to produce work that depicts denial of the Holocaust. There would be an outcry from the Jews. But it is okay for Zapiro to insult Africans in the name of freedom of speech.

I cannot ignore his racist behaviour towards blacks any more. I grew up in an environment in which, if a boy continues to insult or provoke you, you sort him out physically once and for all through a boxing challenge. Thank God for the colonisation of Africa and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights – because I’m sure Jacob Zuma would love to give Zapiro a lesson he will never forget.

I’m not a Zuma fan and I think he is failing to lead black people to economic freedom and return the country and its wealth to their rightful owners, but I would defend his right to human dignity – just as I would defend the right of Jews to believe in the Holocaust.

At times like these I wish Robert Mugabe was the president of Mzansi. Imagine Zuma trying to teach Mugabe about democracy, whereas he cannot even control the white racists in his own country. It is a joke.

I miss the M&G of the 1980s and early 1990s. – Bonga Mthembu

I look forward to Jackson “Don’t buy City Press” Mthembu making a fool of himself by singing the new song “Don’t buy Mail & Guardian, don’t buy!” I also hope that M&G ­editor Nic Dawes does not succumb to pressure like Ferial Haffajee did at City Press. But I’m not optimistic, because the last time Dawes had a brush with aggrieved Muslims over a Zapiro cartoon he apologised. Viva to Zapiro, who is my hero for carrying the torch of liberation and the rights to freedom of expression. Viva! – Fayzal Mahamed, Johannesburg

I would like to introduce a distinction to the debate about Zapiro’s latest cartoon, a distinction that has sadly not been made or not well understood.

It is the simple distinction between having the right to do something and deciding whether doing it is the (morally) right thing to do.  

Let’s apply this to The Spear and Zapiro’s cartoon. Do Brett Murray and Zapiro (and, for that matter, the art gallery and the newspaper) have the right, motivated in terms of the right of freedom of speech, to portray another human being in as uncharitable and undignified way as they did? Yes, they do. But should they have done what they did, painting the picture and drawing the cartoon for public display? I fail to see what the moral argument would be for ­acting in such a way, even if you have the right to do so.

What possible good could come from these actions? A fellow human being is pictured in a way that any human being would experience as undignified and dehumanising. Is it not always better to refrain from doing something like that?

Picturing Zuma the way Murray and Zapiro have done is a sure way to enrage vast numbers of people and provoke renewed racial polarisation in South Africa. Who in his right mind wants that at this precarious stage of our history? – Professor Anton A van Niekerk, chair of the philosophy department and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics, Stellenbosch University

n Zapiro’s depiction of Zuma as a “dick” has done the ­values of liberal democracy a great disservice. However opportunistic the ANC apparatchiks’ protests against The Spear may have been in the name of the “traditional values” that these politicians have long since abandoned, there can be little doubt that they are still upheld by millions of grassroots voters.

To them, Zapiro’s cartoon must have been a kick in the teeth. They will now be even more easily persuaded that “freedom of expression” is a mere pretext for demeaning the president and, by extension, the “traditional values” to which he lays claim.

Informed champions of liberal values cannot possibly wish to promote either this misconception, or its opportunistic exploitation by politicians. A less deliberately hurtful cartoon would have done much more for freedom. In a multicultural society, it is not enough to defend one’s own values with perseverance and courage. One needs to do so with sensitivity and respect for the values of others, particularly those one does not share. Failing this, one becomes a self-righteous cultural imperialist. – Richard Bertelsmann, Cape Town

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