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» 07.12.2009 - SA urged to improve health care for migrants
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» 28.10.2009 - SA racism case back in court
» 27.08.2009 - SA lawyer appointed UN rights expert on violence against women

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South Africa
Human rights | Media

SA cartoonist under fire again

afrol News, 22 September - Top South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (aka: Zapiro) is once again under legal threat from African National Congress (ANC) presidential candidate Jacob Zuma for a cartoon he ran in SA Sunday Times newspaper issue of 7 September, which depicted Mr Zuma about to rape country's justice system.

Further more, Mr Shapiro is reportedly receiving death threats from angry ANC supporters.

In cartoon, party youth league president, Julius Malema and secretaries general of ANC, South African Congress Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions namely: Gwede Mantashe, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi are holding down Justice system.

The three organisations are tri-partite alliance members. A number of ANC supporters assert that cartoon is insulting to their leader Mr Zuma.

While most of this criticism constitutes a healthy dialogue in press, there is a video clip in which an ANC official reportedly warns that action must be taken against Mr Shapiro.

In this clip, Mr Malema was quoted in part as saying, " . . . there must be an action against Zapiro and we will never allow a situation in which Zapiro is untouchable in South Africa."

Reports further show that ANC youth league leader accused renowned cartoonist of practicing racist journalism.

Both Mr Shapiro and his editor Mondi Makhanya are reportedly under unprecedented pressure, and case is said to be quickly becoming a test of Mr Zuma's intentions for freedom of press under any future regime he may head.

There will be a 400-member general election of National Assembly in 2009, where members of General Assembly will elect president.

Meanwhile, both Sunday Times and Mr Shapiro are said to have refused to apologise.

An editorial in The Times, daily version of Sunday Times reportedly said it was a "shallow interpretation" of cartoon to accuse cartoonist of depicting Mr Zuma as a rapist.

"Shapiro has encapsulated in one drawing biggest threat to South Africa's future, that our justice system will be sacrificial lamb offered up on altar of 'our saviour', Mr Zuma," editorial read.

"Alliance has openly attacked judiciary, including our highest court, and has announced national strikes and other protests should Mr Zuma's corruption trial proceed. They have called for a 'political solution to the criminal case against Zuma. Their willingness to 'kill for Zuma', the strike for Zuma and to mortgage our democracy for Zuma is frightening," it said.

It concluded with, "Zuma might be a bit of a joke, but what's being done in his name is definitely not funny."

Press Ombudsman's Khanye Mndaweni said that although office had received two calls about matter today, no formal complaint had been laid yet.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Benzi Ka-Soko said that while he believed Mr Shapiro was most brilliant cartoonist South Africa had produced, depicting ANC leader as a rapist was disrespectful, as well as insulting to alliance.

"Bluntly put, cartoon says Mr Zuma and Alliance are bad for South Africa because they are rapists. In a more graphic way, cartoon depicts Mr Zuma and his comrades as beasts who think through their penises and that women are never safe near these 'animals,'" Mr Ka-Soko was quoted as saying.

"Zapiro Zapped", said another SA newspaper, The Citizen's front-page headline and Sowetan wrote, "Readers zap Zuma cartoon".

Readers' opinion varied between feeling that cartoons undermined Mr Zuma's role as a father to saying that it was "well thought out and to point".

For its part, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) reportedly said cartoon may just shock South Africa' leaders "to their senses".

"A metaphorical depiction that tells truth and provokes argument may be just what South Africa needs at this critical juncture. It may also be what is needed to shock country's leaders into their senses," DA's Dene Smuts was quoted as saying.

Debate on cartoon spilled onto Internet with Friends of Jacob Zuma Website also taking different positions.

"This Zapiro character is irritating to say the least," wrote Thabo of Sekhukhunye, discussing plans for region to attend Mr Zuma's Pietermaritzburg High Court judgment earlier this month.

Others actually applaud under siege cartoonist, "for his accurate depiction of current state of affairs."

This is a reference to Mr Zuma's comments during his rape trial that he had showered to reduce change of contracting the HI virus after having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman. He was acquitted during that trial.

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