Monday, December 22, 2008 at 5:25 AM
Last week, Jacob Zuma – the man generally expected to be the next president of South Africa – aped Muslim jihadists by unleashing a pack of lawyers on “Zapiro” – the nom de plume of his country’s most celebrated political cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro.
Zuma claims that the Zapiro cartoon pictured above “injured his dignity and reputation“, and he’s demanding Shapiro’s life savings (though a pound of flesh is undoubtedly preferred) in compensation.
It is a fact, however, that Zuma got off scot-free on a charge of raping a woman who regarded him as her father, despite effectively incriminating himself. He also got off on charges of racketeering and other financial crimes, despite evidence that would humble most Russian oligarchs.
Therefore, Zapiro’s depiction of him raping the South African justice system is as fair and accurate as any cartoon can be.
At any rate, Zapiro will defend himself by invoking the universal freedom of the press to comment on the public lives of public figures. Not to mention that truth is an absolute defense to claims of defamation.
Meanwhile, the reason he depicts Zuma with that shower nozzle sticking out of his head is that, at his rape trial in 2006, Zuma said, rather indignantly, that he had showered after having sex with his accuser (even though he knew she was HIV-positive) to prevent transmission of the virus.
(Of course, when he begins manifesting symptoms of the virus, he will probably shun Anti-Retroviral drugs in favor of the garlic and beetroot concoction the South African government has been peddling in recent years as a panacea for HIV/AIDS.)
But rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate his critics, like cartoonist Zapiro, should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.
This is why the founding of a new party last week – by enlightened and progressive former members of the ANC – to cope is cause for such hope.