Zapiro and the Zuma cartoon of the African Renaissance

Zapiro is a controversial cartoonist who rose to fame during apartheid. His nonchalant portrayals of former South African president P.W Botha as a big crocodile was partly garnered from and partly responsible for the groot krokodil (big crocodile) nickname of Botha.

With the advent of our integrated democracy, Zapiro shifted gears and focused on the new boss. First, there were endearing portrayals of Madiba as being more famous than the pope (which, in our part of the world, is in fact the case. Dude, Madiba is bigger than Jesus here. Madiba is bigger than John Lennon here!). Then, there were portrayals of president Thabo Mbeki as an aloof well, loof, who is more concerned with earning Voyager miles and smoking his madala pipe than running a country. None of these bitter satirical portrayals were however pills too bitter to swallow.

Enter Jacob Zuma, a dictator in the making. From his all too frequent run-ins with the law, to his all too frequent attempts at censoring the press, to his attempts at sowing discord among our excellent (and, mind you, ANC appointed) judiciary, to his dismal level of education, to the vitriolic company he keeps who threaten to kill those who do not support Zuma's cause, the man is quite frankly just asking to be ridiculed.

Zapiro Zuma cartoon
This is it: the controversial Zapiro cartoon. That is, the latest one. Hopefully not the last! Used without permission.

Who could be a better man for the job of pulling down Zuma's trousers and giving him six of the best than Zapiro, the man with 'ballpoints of steel' and vanguard of freedom of speech?

How to miss the point of the Zapiro cartoon


  • There are many women who have pointed out that rape is not an issue that should be taken lightly. Let me ask you this: if rape is nothing to be taken lightly, then surely you would expect a judicial system that is stable, free from favour and free from prejudice, to fell judgement on those who are guilty of such a vile and barbaric deed?

    To respond to the Zapiro cartoon with a beaten wife syndrome knee-jerk reaction, is missing the point
    .

  • There are some (not surprisingly, the same folk who threaten to kill anti-revolutionary forces) who pointed out that the cartoon is racist. Racist? In what way? By portraying Zuma and his cohorts like thugs - as they do come across when one only considers their words and their deeds, without considering their level of eduction, their gender, or their race? If a Taiwanese lady boy threatened to kill people who do not support their cause and they get treated with the indignity they deserve, would it be a racist issue? If the answer is no, it's definitely not a racist issue.

    Let's put this in perspective. You could portray lady justice as a cross-dressing Taiwanese lady boy, but I fear not many would recognise lady justice as lady justice. In the same way, you could portray the Mona Lisa as a black man, but then it won't be Mona Lisa. The fact remains that lady justice, along with the rule of law, is a distinctly Western notion and she is traditionally depicted as a blindfolded, white marble statue of a Greek lady. Now, I may not be politically correct here, but to the best of my knowledge, Greeks consider themselves Caucasian.

    For the slow readers: the lady in question is not a white madam, it is lady justice. She is an abstract concept, but it does not surprise me at all that the members of the Zuma revolution could not recognise justice if it kicked them in the balls while they try to rape her, let alone being portrayed in a meticulously executed political comic.

    To turn the Zapiro cartoon into a race issue is missing the point. Especially when the demographic representation in the cartoon reflects the demographics of our country (five black people to every white person - actually that's too many black people and not nearly enough Taiwanese lady boys).

  • Then there are those who argue that freedom of speech should be free, but not that free. This is certainly a debatable point. Many compare this portrayal of Zuma raping the justice system with Malema and Vavi's threats to eliminate and kill anti-revolutionary forces. Not so.

    Our constitution holds that freedom of speech is free, except when that speech condones or incites violence. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but suggesting that a public person who is calling for political solutions to his own legal problems is raping the justice system is a far cry from calling for violence.

    To turn the Zapiro cartoon into a half-baked excuse for censoring the press, is missing the point. It merely proves us Zuma critics right. There is something fishy brewing around this whole Zuma issue, which we will only be able to lay to rest by allowing lady justice to take her course. That is, with due respect for the rule of law.


How to get the Zapiro cartoon


  • One word: satire. Political cartoons are meant to initiate discussion. We are talking about women being abused, reputations at stake, racism, the ruling party's threats to our judiciary and, thankfully enough, about Zuma's fitness for office.

    If you've thought or talked about the Zapiro cartoon (preferably in that order), you got the point.

  • Rape is disgusting. Short of killing someone, it is the most vile deed you could possibly do to another person. While the manner in which Zuma's obvious disregard of the justice system is portrayed may raise a few eyebrows, it is certainly a very apt metaphor.

    If you've considered the message instead of the way the message was portrayed in the cartoon, you got the point.

  • Imagine a world without freedom of the press. In this world, South Africa is still under apartheid, because without freedom of the press, no amount of pseudo-military training in Africa would ever have presented a real threat to the apartheid government. Without freedom of the press, South Africa would not have experienced economic sanctions, entertainment bans, sports bans and general upturn of noses due to apartheid.

    If you've started discussing what freedom of speech means to you and to the process of democracy, then you got the point.


We need to think very carefully about the leaders we elect. It's time to realise that the days of someone leading our country by divine right are over. Thanks to democracy, we are now directly responsible for our leaders. The government works for us, and not the other way around. Thanks to Zapiro, more of us will realise this.

If you looked at the Zapiro cartoon and you started thinking and talking about the fitness of Jacob Zuma to hold office, you got the point.

Disclaimer: this post is obviously an attempt at link baiting. I'm discussing the Zapiro cartoon to get sweet, sweet traffic.

If you read this post and thought: "What a cheap way to get hits!", then you got the point.


External links


Comments

Dante said…
I wonder what Zapiro will have to say about Zuma being let off the hook. What I said certainly wasn't fit to print...

Didn't know Zapiro had been around since the P.W. era though! You learn something new every day.
Alexander said…
Great topic! As a former college paper editor having had two editorial cartoons garner national attention I can surely appreciate this discussion!

It's up to a responsible editorial board to say yay or nay to publishing "on the edge" material.

This one certainly seems publishable considering all the facts.

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