Once more President Jacob Zuma has displayed his magnanimity and the mark of leadership, this time by dropping a multi-million rand defamation case cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro. Shapiro, aka Zapiro, had in 2008 caricutured Zuma raping Lady Justice - a depiction that sent shockwaves through-out the country.
The rape of Lady Justice is but one of many cartoons by Zapiro in his relentless onslaught against Zuma. The protracted attack on Zuma by the cartoonist has seen many reading racism and obsession with African genitalia in Zapiro's drawings.
Why people read racism in Zapiro's cartoons is because the victims of his venom are predominently black. As one commentator put it, we still have to see Helen Zille being caught on the act of screwing the people of Khayalitsha in Zapiro's cartoons..
When President Zuma initiated proceedings against Zapiro, the intention was to challenge the racist stereotypes peddled by some cartooonists. Over time Zuma resolved on taking the road less travelled in the face of adversity, he withdrew the litigation against the cartoonist and agreed to accomodate a portion of legal fees of the respondents.
In a Statement announcing the dropping of the case, the Presidency says:"While the courts exist in part to protect citizens against racial and cultural prejudice and bigotry, those scourges will not be eradicated from our body politic through litigation alone. Defeating racist attitudes requires removing the racial imprint on the way South African society is organised and structured, as well as continous political action and open dialogue between South Africans across racial and cultural divides."
One hopes that peddlers of racial and cultural stereotypes like Zapiro will reciprocate President Jacob Zuma's stately gesture of allowing the cartoonist to live to see another day of free political expression
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