The ruling African National Congress’s Women League has come out with guns blazing, criticising cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro for a cartoon appearing on Mail & Guardian’s 6 July 2012 edition. In the M&G cartoon, what seems like a men’s penis (Gallery viewer, I suppose) has visited the Goodman Gallery and sits in front of what looks like a mirror.
The penis, with a shower on top of its head – a trademark bestowed on President Jacob Zuma by Zapiro himself following his take-a-shower-after-sex-with-an-HIV-woman scandal a few years back, has these words behind it: “Though sex is his [Zuma’s] publicised sport, Zuma took the dick-painting to court. Suing Brett’s freedom of expression confirmed the impression [that] he’s as big a dick as we thought”.
The women’s league condemned Zapiro in the “strongest possible terms” a “disgusting and completely distasteful depiction of the President [Zuma]”. It accused the cartoonist of having “taken his attempts at satire too far”, adding that “he clearly does not understand the reasons for the public outcry over “The Spear” and why it was hurtful to so many people.”
According to the women’s league, Brett Murray’s portrait of Zuma with his “zombo” outside of this pants, which was on display at the Goodman Gallery and also published in the City Press newspaper almost two months ago, was an “insult to those who suffered under the indignity of Apartheid and a slap in the face to real efforts for the social cohesion of our fragile society”.
So by claiming Zuma’s decision to sue Murray was irrational (my emphasis) as depicted and implied in today’s M&G cartoon, ANCWL says Zapiro is “showing his disregard for the healing process which is currently underway in South Africa after the divisive era before democracy.”
It said furore following the Goodman Gallery’s display and City Press’ publication of the “The Spear” was a “clear indication that we still have a long way to go”. “The Zapiro cartoons rely on their shock value to make an impact, but by calling the President of this great nation a “dick” is unacceptable and the WL would like to know who the “we” he is referring to in the cartoon actually is, as the majority of the population who voted for the President clearly did not think this of Zuma”. It saw the cartoon was a “clear attempt to fuel divisions in our society and should be condemned by all proud South Africans, regardless of race or political affiliation”.
The league said the right to freedom of expression which both Zapiro might claim he was exercising by publishing today’s cartoon of the president – the same right Murray had claimed he was exercising at the time, the same right the Goodman Gallery claimed it was excising by displaying the portrait of Zuma with his “zombo” outside of his pants and also the same right City Press saw nothing wrong with when it published the portrait – was enshrined in the constitution which it claimed was “pioneered by the ANC”.
Although a right “is not absolute”, the league said one “must always remember a founding principal of our constitution [of]… the right to human dignity, which was denied to so many during apartheid”.
Criticising a “painting before it” – probably one that had appeared on M&G last week Friday, where Zuma was addressing the ANC policy conference undressed – the ANCWL said this was a violation of the president’s right to dignity and an insult to the people of South Africa as both cartoons served “no public interest what-so-ever and was clearly just an attempt to insult and defame the President further”.
Following today’s cartoon, the league believes that Zapiro had now “gone from being a sometimes controversial, yet relevant satirist to [being] a sensationalist arbiter of attention seeking proper gander released purely for its shock appeal, and serves absolutely no purpose in society”. He has also “declared a hatred for South Africans with this insult to the President, of not only the ANC but the entire country”. The latest cartoon comes at a time when Zuma is due to address a massive of massive delegation of women from across all sectors of society who are deeply disgusted by this terrible portrayal of our countries President, said the women’s league.
Following ANCWL’s criticism of today’s cartoon by Zapiro, the ANC has also criticised both the cartoonist and the newspaper. In a statement by spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, the ruling party said it was “taken aback by this so-called cartoon and comment by Zapiro” which it said was “offensive, demeaning and insulting” to Zuma, his family and to the ANC membership and leadership. “We find it unacceptable and shocking that after the harsh experiences thatSouth Africa, the President and his family has experienced few weeks ago, that Zapiro and the Mail and Guardian will find it appropriate to continue with the insults and hurt to the President, his family and the broader ANC constituency”.
Mthembu said there is a “lot that Shapiro and the Mail and Guardian should learn and appreciate about the Bill of Rights as contained in the South African Constitution, particularly the right to human dignity and the respect to the Office of the State President”. This is a similar sentiment raised by the ANCWL which said that no right is absolute and that we “must always remember a founding principal of our constitution [of]… the right to human dignity, which was denied to so many during apartheid”.
The ANC urged both Zapiro and M&G to apologise to the president, his family, the ANC constituency andSouth Africaat large. It said it “won’t rest until we ensure that the likes of Zapiro and the Mail and Guardian fully understand that their so-called journalistic creativity is a disservice to the unity and cohesion of our country”.
The ruling party said if Zapiro and M&G leadership (Nic Dawes as its editor) had “cared enough” to participate in this week’s National Social Cohesion Summit, they would have understood the “clarion call by all participants that this type of the so-called creative work does not belong to a democratic South Africa and that the unity and cohesion of our country is important than the obsession to insult the image of President Zuma and the image of South Africa”. “We believe we are not alone as the ANC in condemning this act of insult to our President by Zapiro and the Mail and Guardian, all South Africans share our disgust. We have been in undated by calls from a number of South Africans, including journalist, cartoonist, members of various religious groups in our country, as well as business leaders, etc, who equally feel offended by this display of arrogance by Zapiro and the Mail and Guardian”, said Mthembu is a press statement.
Mthembu said the cartoonist and the newspaper “will be harshly judged not only by the ANC and the people ofSouth Africabut also by his own peers for this disgust and disrespect to the Office of President Zuma as the ANC President, President of theRepublicofSouth Africa, a father and a family man”. He said the ANC was “hopeful” that the this week’s summit will assist Zapiro and the like to “appreciate that as South Africans we need to respect each other immaterial of the positions we hold in society”.
Moreover it hoped that Zapiro and M&G would now start to “respect the cultural values that underpin our South African society, values which negates any insulting mannerism in written or artistic word”. “We were obviously wrong on both accounts, it is still abundantly clear that there is still a lot that we need to do as a country to cement respect for one another and also respect for cultural values that are in abundance and reflective of our diversity in our country”, said the ruling party spokesperson.
Do you think Zapiro has gone too far this time as is claimed by the ANCWL and that he should apologise together with the M&G for the cartoon? Or as I have blogged previously, do you think this is a matter of politicians lacking a sense of homour?
By the way, as Pieter-Dirk Uys told Masetshaba Moshoeshoe this week on SABC’s SA FM radio, where does homour, satire (and I forgot the third one) end and where and when does one draw the line?
NB: Zapiro is not new to controversy. Following his publication of the Lady Justice cartoon in 2008, published in Avusa Media’s Sunday Times newspaper, Zuma has since instituted a law suit against the cartoonist which is apparently about R5-million. Visit Zapiro’s web site legal battles with Zuma.
#ThinkingOutLoud: I just wonder if the ANCYL (or its former president Julius Malema rather) finds today’s cartoon of Zuma as offensive towards Zuma as did the ANCWL and ANC and that both the newspaper and Zapiro should apologise.