[DEBATE] : Brett Davidson (formerly at Idasa) on Zapiro-Zuma
tintinyana at gmail.com
Wed Sep 10 15:39:02 BST 2008
> At present there's quite a heated debate going on in South Africa
> over a cartoon that appeared in the Sunday Times last Sunday. The
> cartoon depicts Jacob Zuma, the president of the ANC and the man
> most likely to be the next president of South Africa. Zuma is seen
> undoing his trousers, while people representing the ANC, SACP,
> Cosatu and the ANC Youth League are holding down a woman,
> representing the justice system. The men are urging Zuma to rape the
> The cartoon has led to an outcry, with a range of views being
> expressed in blogs and letters, and calls to radio stations. Some
> people have called for Zapiro, probably South Africa's most famous
> and respected political cartoonist, to be fired. Some of these
> critics have objected to the implied reference to Zuma's trial for
> rape, saying this is unfair, since he was found not guilty. Others
> have objected to the rape imagery, saying either that it makes light
> of rape, or that it is insensitive given the high levels of rape in
> South Africa.
> Some of Zapiro's critics have likened the cartoonist to David
> Bullard, a columnist for the Sunday Times who was fired a few months
> back, after a column of his which praised colonialism and made some
> disparaging remarks about Africans.
> I'm not a knee-jerk supporter of the Sunday Times or of any
> criticism of public figures -- I think the standard of journalism at
> the Times has been dropping. Over the last month in particular, it
> has carried a couple of front page stories, making serious
> allegations and splashed with enormous banner headlines, that seem
> to have been poorly sourced and researched. But I do think the
> Zapiro cartoon can be defended.
> Firstly, I think that the critics misunderstand the nature of
> metaphor, and of political cartoons. Zapiro is not depicting a
> literal rape. The cartoon uses the shocking, awful, violence and
> violation of rape as a metaphor -- to comment on what it is that
> Zuma and his supporters are busy doing to the rule of law in South
> Africa. Secondly, the cartoon doesn't make light of rape. Just
> because it's called a 'cartoon', doesn't mean it is trivialising
> things or trying to be funny. Its message is very serious.
> I certainly don't think the comparison to David Bullard is fair.
> Bullard's remarks were racist, attributing negative qualities to an
> entire group of people. Zapiro's cartoon crticisises specific public
> figures and organisations, for specific actions. That criticism
> might be overly harsh, but it's not racist, and so does not overstep
> the boundaries of free speech in my view.
> Yes, Zapiro's cartoon is very shocking. It elicits a visceral
> response - it's like a kick in the stomach. But let's just think
> about the situation it's referring to. Supporters of Jacob Zuma have
> lately been making some very disturbing comments about the
> judiciary. Some have gone so far as to call our top judges -- judges
> with impeccable credentials -- 'counter-revolutionary'.
> These comments, which are being repeated over and over again, are
> steadily undermining faith in, and respect for, our judicial system
> and thus for the rule of law. The rule of law is the bedrock of
> democracy. If that goes, society descends into chaos or tyranny. It
> is very dangerous territory that Zuma's backers have dragged us
> into, and that I find that infinitely more worrying and disturbing
> than this cartoon.
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