Zuma drops defamation cases

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has withdrawn legal action against various media over cartoons and articles he considered defamatory, his spokespersonsaid on Friday.

"In consultation with his legal team, President Zuma has elected to withdraw his claims against the various entities and in so doing bring these matters to a close, mindful as he is that much of the litigation commenced before the president assumed office," Mac Maharaj said.

The material, from 2006 to 2010, prompted Zuma to institute legal action against various media groups and individuals associated with them.

But now he felt "that measured as against the broader national interest and challenges which the country is faced with, his personal sentiments, however aggrieved he may feel, must give way".

Maharaj said Zuma had considered the cartoons and articles defamatory or calculated to "bring his good name, and in some instances the office of the president, into disrepute".

In some instances they sought to cast African males in a particularly negative light with "bigoted and racist overtones and innuendo".

Maharaj said the decision was "informed by the broader agenda of reconciliation and nation building".

The president intended redressing prejudice and inequality through government-led programmes and forging better working relationships with like-minded interest groups.

In October Zuma dropped his R5m claim for defamation for cartoonist Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro's "Lady Justice" cartoon.

It depicts Zuma loosening his trousers while "Lady Justice" is pinned down by since expelled African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema, Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, all saying: "Go for it, boss".

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