That Zapiro cartoon

Ever since The Sunday Times published the “rape” cartoon that the entirety of South Africa is now talking about (that would be Sunday), I have been literally inundated with an email asking what 6000 miles… readers should say when asked about it, in order to remain “on message”.

This cartoon was removed at the
request of Zapiro’s legal team.

6000, September 2009

Exhibit A: the cartoon in question.

Looking around the SA interwebs, plenty of others have already had their say:

“While we accept that cartoonists have the licence to express controversial views, yesterday’s cartoon is in extremely bad taste and goes way beyond limits of acceptability”
“The cartoon rubbishes the collective integrity of the alliance and constitutes yet another continued violation of the rights and dignity of the ANC president.”
“In a country where we have a serious scourge of fighting violence against women and in particular, rape, we need to be very careful how we use the notion and the concept of rape loosely to demonstrate any form of perceived abuse.” [link]

and for the other side:

“Good for you dude. That cartoon is an absolutely accurate description of the state of affairs… so I’m doing my part to spread it around.” [link]
“There is a very, very pronounced tendency in this country towards exceptionalism, as if our politicians are more sacrosanct than politicians worldwide. That I take issue with.” [link]

For me, Zapiro (the pen name of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro) has taken things a step too far on this occasion. I have issues with his trivialisation of rape and his portrayal of abuse of women for political ends and also his imagery (again) linking Jacob Zuma with rape – 2 years on from JZ’s acquittal for that crime. It seems likely that Zuma will now sue for defamation – he may feel that he has a strong case, given Shapiro’s apparent vendetta against him.

Please don’t think that I am naive as to what Shapiro is trying to say – I wrote about the whole situation just last week. Disappointingly, the astute, amusing, politically savvy and downright insightful political spectator and commentator has let himself down with this particular piece of work. Many would say that in just stirring up this fuss, he has achieved his objective – to publicise the issue of JZ’s inevitable presidency versus his corruption trial and the difficulties that poses for this country. I think we were all aware of that issue anyway.

I just feel that it could have been done a whole lot more tastefully.

Amnesty for Zuma?

The debate is on. Should the charge of racketeering, the four charges of corruption, the charge of money laundering and the twelve charges of fraud against ANC President Jacob Zuma be dropped?

The charges stem from an arms deal way back in 1999 and the case has been dragging on ever since. In the meantime, Zuma has been sacked from his post as Deputy President of the country, has successfully defended himself against charges of rape and, more recently, been elected President of the ANC and is now effectively South Africa’s President-in-waiting. But all the while – in fact, now more than ever – those corruption (and racketeering, money laundering and fraud) charges have been hanging over him.

Over the years, certain groups have continually protested Zuma’s innocence and called for the charges against him to be dropped, claiming that they are no more than a political smear campaign. Now, as we finally approach the 2009 election and a possible trial date for Zuma, those groups are becoming ever more vocal.
They say that the trouble is that if (ok… WHEN) Zuma is elected as President of the Republic next year, it’s going to do the country’s somewhat shaky reputation a whole lot more damage to have a potentially corrupt fraudster in charge. I see that.
What I don’t get is their insistence that things will be better if we drop the charges. Look at it this way: if it goes to court and Zuma is innocent, then it’s all ok – we’re in the clear with him. If he’s not, then we’re in the poop. Again, with him.
But if the charges are dropped and we never find out, then what are people going to assume?

I also don’t like the way they are going about attempting to force this issue through. Threats of violence, anarchy, civil disobedience. COSATU’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi:

“There are sentiments that Zuma is a target of machinations that go very, very deep. And all of us fear what the reaction is going to be and what may happen the day something happens to him (Zuma) in particular. We can see exactly what the reaction is going to be.
People may misinterpret this as a threat to the judiciary or as a form of blackmail to try and get Jacob Zuma off the hook.
But this is an honest assessment. We honestly do fear what may happen if eventually the matter goes to court and the verdict is that he is guilty and going 14 years to prison.”

Struggling with what I should think on the subject, I tried to contact our 6000 miles… political analyst. But he’s in the USA chasing good-looking girls with strange accents and being re-educated into renouncing his links with Blade Nzimande.

I too fear for the future in SA if JZ goes to court. Then, equally, I fear for the future if he doesn’t go to court. But what message are we sending out if the charges are dropped? That certain individuals are above the law, no matter what crimes they may have committed?
We’re in for a very rough ride over the next few months (or years?) whatever happens, but while I see the sense in protecting the country’s reputation and economic status, something just won’t let me support an amnesty for JZ.

Sorry, Msholozi.

Tenuous terrorism charges

Now I know that terrorism versus civil liberties is a contentious issue and all, but I firmly believe that prevention is better than cure. And so, where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that a terrorist act is going to take place, I would much prefer to see it nipped in the bud. Certainly that rather than some sort of rucksack- related Tube massacre and the security services telling us “Oh yeah – we kind of thought that was going to happen”.

That doesn’t mean that I am in favour of all the new laws which have recently been brought in in the UK by a struggling ZaNu-labour Government, though. The whole 42-days detention is a little OTT as far as I’m concerned. But of course, with the changing face of the terrorist threat over the past few years, some tightening up and realigning of the laws was certainly necessary.

But have these laws got a little bit daft now? Nothing so simple as “murder” or “rape” – two men in Blackburn have been charged (and here I quote):

…with possession of an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

…over a plot (which didn’t exist) to assassinate Gordon Brown. Bit of a mouthful, hey? I wonder if the officer who read the suspects their rights had to have a little crib sheet to make sure he got it right.

OK. Enough of that. I am going to go and switch the kettle on in circumstances where the heating of water together with the possession of dark brown powder may give rise to a reasonable chance of preparation and inbibing of a pleasant morning beverage.

Heavy metal “knot” to blame

Last week’s “incident” at a Krugersdorp school in which an 18-year old student killed one person and injured several others was fantastic news for the South African press. Yes, because not only was this an incident at a “white” school, the student in question dressed up in a mask and used a samurai sword to do his dirty work.
But if only there was another angle to this, something outlandish and sensational to make it the perfect story (especially after the sharks failed to eat those tourists).

Wait! There is! Slipknot!

Yes, standing head and shoulders above the allegations of bullying, satanism, drug-taking, poor parenting and failing teachers comes the blindingly obvious cause of this attack:

Community leader, Pierre Eksteen, who is in charge of a school support network for children, told reporters outside the deserted school grounds that Satanic music was probably the cause of the attack.”He came here camouflaged as the guys from ’Slipknot’. We know the wrong kind of music, and drugs have bad effects. Young people need to be informed of the effects of bad Satanic music,”  

I’m right with you there, Pierre – bad Satanic music is rubbish. Some of the good Satanic music out there is pretty listenable though.
And, as Andrew Donaldson remarked in his great Eish! column in The Sunday Times, it’s always a good idea to get your facts straight before talking to the press:

“Satanism,” Eksteen believes, “is in all the schools in the country; it just hasn’t manifested itself yet. Young people need to be informed of the effects of bad satanic music.”
True — just as young people need to be informed of the effects of bad preachers.

Donaldson also notes:

In August last year, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Adolf Hitler’s musical tastes. Apparently, a crate of his favourite records was looted from his Berlin bunker in 1945 by a Red Army officer and these only came to light after the Russian’s death. The discs included works by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov.
I mention this only because, as far as I’m aware, there has in the 63 years since Hitler’s death been no suggestion whatsoever that any one of these composers and their music had any bearing upon or in any way influenced his behaviour.

Of course, he’s right. The Slipknot angle in this case has been leapt upon by an eager press looking for sensationalist issues where there really are none and has naturally been happily accepted as a rather handy scapegoat by those who failed Morne Harmse and his victims.

That said, I wouldn’t advise you to play Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto if you ever find yourself feeling a little mentally vulnerable and near anything sharp or pointy. Or Jewish.

Plans for the Koeberg Interchange

One of my more popular posts is the one where I describe the roadworks taking place on two of the major routes around Cape Town. I don’t know what this says about how interesting this blog is, or indeed how interesting its readers are. All in all, it’s pretty disappointing.

Anyway, at the time that I wrote that piece, details weren’t readily available of the planned improvements to the frankly horrifying junction of the N1 and the M5. But, as any traveller who has recently experienced the joys of Koeberg Interchange – or as the locals call it “F*****g Koeberg Interchange” – will have noted, some grass has been dug up and some mud has been created: construction has begun and we must all be patient.


It’s a virtue…

But what exactly are they constructing? Well, some helpful civil engineer found MS Paint on his PC and had a bit of a play with a picture of Cape Town taken in 1983. And here’s what he came up with:


Koeberg: Soaring bridges

It truly is a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Much like the construction at Hospital Bend, they seem to have taken everything into account and just flung heaps of money at it. Which is no bad thing. My one concern is that “Phase 1” bit in the top corner. Could it be that this junction will never be finished, destined for continual upgrades and improvements? It already seems like they’ve been going for ages and all they’ve done is sunk two holes for bridge supports and cut some bushes down – interestingly, I note – nowhere near anything on that picture above.

There’s more detail to be had on the CapeTalk site, including some rather natty artists impressions of the finished article. It looks like it actually might work. Problem is, we’ve still got another 2½ years before we get to find out…