Editor defends Zapiro cartoon

2008-09-10 14:16

Johannesburg - The Sunday Times has not yet received notice of legal action relating to a cartoon depicting African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma about to rape justice, while his political allies hold her down, editor Mondli Makhanya said on Wednesday.

"We have not received anything. It's just threats so far," said Makhanya.

Asked whether Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro still had a job he said: "Absolutely. I took the decision to publish it."

He had not felt any pressure from the board of holding company Avusa either.

"There hasn't been any indication of any disapproval from them," he said.

The Times reported that Zuma was seeking legal opinion on the cartoon, which his allies have condemned.

Cartoonists join the fray

Meanwhile, Business Day cartoonist Brandan joined the fray with a sketch depicting the same characters - the ANC Youth League's (ANCYL) Julius Malema, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, South African Communist Party (SACP) secretary general Blade Nzimande and Congress of SA Trade Unions secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi.

They were portrayed pushing the head of "lady liberty" into a toilet bowl with their feet on her back.

On Monday, Star cartoonist Yalo drew her running away from a car with the licence plate "Public Interest" speeding up behind her.

Two complaints

The Press Ombudsman has received two complaints on the controversial Zapiro cartoon, his office said.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was watching developments at the ombud's office before deciding how to proceed.

SAHRC chairperson Jody Kollapen said that as far as he knew the commission had not received any complaints on the cartoon, but believed it warranted a debate.

"It does warrant a debate with respect to where we draw the boundaries, if we do, with respect to freedom of expression," said Kollapen.

This would examine whether journalists and cartoonists had a wider latitude in freedom of expression.

The public discourse that came out of Malema and Vavi's use of the word "kill" in support of Zuma was about limited forms of expression in certain criticism, and the need to develop some guidelines, Kollapen explained.

With an election in 2009 it was important to reach agreement on the debates which would run alongside the contestation of election issues.

'Cartoon may well have gone a bit too far'

"The view of the Commission is that while the cartoon captures a significant political and social issue within society today - on the role of the judiciary and its place in society - the cartoon may well have gone a bit too far in terms of how that particularly relevant social, political, legal issue was captured," said Kollapen.

"I'm not saying that the cartoon necessarily breaches any laws and clearly that is something that would need to be looked at."

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) said that using gang rape to get across a political point trivialised the crime of rape and was barbaric.

"It is also grossly unfair to the individuals depicted in the cartoon and to the organisations they represent, which are striving to cope with a mounting political crisis which is not of their making.

"We therefore demand that the Human Rights Commission and the Public Protector immediately investigate this human rights violation by Zapiro with the object of securing a withdrawal."

Zuma's attorney Michael Hulley was not immediately available for comment and the ANC said it would report back later on whether Zuma would sue.