Zuma sues Zapiro

From Times Live:

In a summons issued in the Johannesburg High Court on Friday, Zuma began proceedings against Avusa Media, former Sunday Times editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya and world-renowned cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro.


In court papers, Zuma said the cartoon, published on September 7 2008, damaged his reputation, was degrading and left him feeling humiliated.

As I said at the time, while I appreciate the point that Shapiro was trying to make, the rape scene in the cartoon drew uncomfortable parallels to Zuma’s rape trial in 2006 – in which he was acquitted – and, for me, spoke more about Zapiro’s apparent vendetta against Zuma, rather than the actual events it was meant to portray.
Incidentally, I wasn’t alone in those views.

There’s obviously a lot of stuff in the news at the moment about the freedom of the media, with the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal (which I agree with, in principle) and the Protection of Information Bill, (which I don’t). In fact for me, this cartoon is further evidence as to exactly why we need the Media Appeals Tribunal. It goes beyond simple “freedom of expression” into the realms of character assassination and it not only demeans Zuma, but also the South African judicial system with the inference that Zuma is actually a rapist despite his acquittal.

Shapiro said Zuma and his legal team would be in a better position if the lawsuit was dropped.

As would Zapiro (if not his legal team), but then I don’t think we really expected him to say anything else, did we?

“I fully stand behind my cartoon and the views expressed in it, and I will not allow the president to intimidate me,” Shapiro said.
“We have had a very free print media for the past decade and we will fight for that freedom. He is going to have unwelcome attention on whether the cartoon was justified or not, and he is going to have an egg on his face over this case.”

Shapiro has some sort of weird cult status in SA. But it seems to me that because of his ability to catch the mood of the (white) people here and to hit the nail on the head with occasional amusing and clever observations, it is felt that that status gives him free rein and support to say what he likes even when he goes too far – as on this occasion (and others).
His followers seem unable to criticise him at all, as if they are unable to distinguish between his individual cartoons, blindly just supporting anything with his name on it: “it’s Zapiro, so it must be right, right?”.

So do I think Zuma should win this case? Absolutely.
Do I think he will win it? I’m much less sure.
But if he doesn’t, the irony of Shapiro celebrating a verdict of the judicial system he believes is so malleable in Zuma’s hands (or at the mercy of other parts of his anatomy) will not be lost on me.

Zapiro – who can I annoy this time?

After the whole “Zuma raping Justice” cartoon furore, things have died down a little for rogue cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro. We’ve hearly heard a peep from him over the last few months. What a pleasure.
So it was about time he came up with a plan to irritate some group or other and get himself back into the headlines. But – devoid of ideas and inspiration and with a shortened deadline due to a major religious holiday, what was he supposed to do?

The answer was obvious: rehash some contentious old stuff and add a touch of spice by throwing in some religious imagery – a surefire hit after the big Sax Appeal rumpus.

The result:

This cartoon removed at the
request of Zapiro’s legal team
6000, September 2009

Zapiro’s latest offering from mg.co.za

So: ANC factions nailing Jesus Justice to the cross while the NPA washes it’s hands of the affair under Zuma’s shower. All just in time for Easter.

Yep – that should last him another few weeks.

Where I lead…

…the South African Human Rights Commission follows.

SAHRC Chair, Jody Kollapen on the Zapiro cartoon furore:

The view of the Commission is that while the cartoon captures a significant political and social issue within society today — on the role of the judiciary and its place in society — the cartoon may well have gone a bit too far in terms of how that particularly relevant social, political, legal issue was captured.

Hang on, isn’t that what I said?

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.