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.

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?