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Jacob Zuma drops charges against cartoonist, portrayed ‘raping’ justice

Jacob Zuma drops charges against cartoonist, portrayed ‘raping’ justice

President Zuma has at the last minute dramatically dropped his claim for damages against the cartoonist ‘Zapiro’ (real name Jonathan Shapiro) for a cartoon published in the South African newspaper The Sunday Times and agreed to pay half of its legal costs. The case was due to be heard in the high court on Monday.


In the cartoon published in 2008, Zuma was depicted with his trousers undone standing in front of the then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe who were holding down ‘Lady Justice’, saying: “Go for it, boss” (Zuma had been acquitted of a rape charge in 2006).


The first and the last laugh in this saga have definitely been with Zapiro. Following the announcement that Zuma had backed down Zapiro produced another cartoon showing Lady Justice and the cartoonist himself pinning Zuma to the floor with the caption, “Are we done here?”


The Lady Justice cartoon caused one of the biggest uproars ever seen in South Africa over a cartoon.

Zuma had started legal proceedings over the cartoon in December 2010 against Avusa (the newspaper’s publishers), Jonathan Shapiro and the Sunday Times former editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya.

Zuma claimed that the cartoon damaged his reputation and dignity, intending to convey to readers that the president was “in the process of abusing the justice system in as vile, degrading and violent a way as the raping of a woman.”

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) however, declared in June 2010 that the cartoon ‘did not constitute hate speech, unfair discrimination or a violation of any human right enshrined in the Constitution’ following a complaint by the Young Communist League of South Africa.


As regular readers of the Kenya Forum will know, Jacob Zuma was recently involved in another row over freedom of speech and the use of his image (see ‘Jacob Zuma as a penis: political satire or taken too far?’ from July 9th, 2012, or ‘Racism or artful expression? Discussing Jacob Zuma’s nude mural’, May 30, 2012).

‘The Spear’, painted by Cape Town-based artist Brett Murray, depicted the president with his genitals hanging out caused outrage, with ANC supporters demonstrating to have the painting removed from an exhibition.


Shapiro is still being sued by Zuma for two other cartoons, published by Independent Newspapers around the time of his rape trial seven years ago. One of the cartoons was the first in which Zapiro depicted Zuma with a shower attached to his head, a reference to the latter’s statement that he had had a shower after sex with an HIV+ woman.

The Kenya Forum hopes that Zapiro will keep up the good work and that Kenya’s own and excellent cartoonist, the Daily Nation’s ‘Gado’, is further encouraged to ‘afflict the comfortable’!


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