Zapiro mirrors our society, warts and all

From Bonga Mthembu’s insinuation that violence should be meted out against Zapiro to Anton van Niekerk’s odd suggestion that considerations of decency and respect should constrain political cartoonists, they all share a common assumption – that any harmful reactions to his cartoon must be his fault rather than the fault of those who cause them directly.

Much is made, for instance, of the supposed potential of Zapiro’s cartoon to exacerbate racial polarisation in South Africa. But it is not Zapiro who exacerbates anything. Rather, it is those who insist on finding racist motives behind his work who do so.

In similar vein, Vusi Mona (“Zapiro cartoon not ‘serious’ by any imaginative stretch”, July 13 to 19) turns the truth on its head, portraying Zapiro as the powerful party (in Mona’s fantasy world, Zapiro is an emperor or mafioso) and Zuma is his victim (his “dignity” has been “impugned”).

My only criticism of Zapiro is that he didn’t display as much resolve when bullied over his Muhammad cartoon two years ago. Unlike those featuring Zuma, that cartoon was respectful and even sympathetic to the founder of Islam.

Still, Zapiro received the most vile threats from “offended” Muslims merely for depicting their prophet. In a cartoon the following week, he admitted that he may have to “live with the contradiction” of “making exceptions for religious censorship”. Since then, he has avoided cartoons offensive to Islam.

The unfortunate message is clear – and no doubt the ANC has taken note: if one intimidates him sufficiently, even Zapiro will eventually back down. – Alex Myers, Cape Town

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