Johannesburg - Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro says he is sceptical about the social cohesion summit because it is an attempt to encourage conformity rather than real diversity.
“Dissident views are essential for real change. Irreverence toward leaders who take themselves too seriously is a vital part of democracy,” he said in an email issued by his office.
He was responding to criticism of his cartoon which was published in the Mail & Guardian on Friday.
“If ANC spokespeople feel the cartoon should be ignored then they are free to ignore it,” he said.
The government has called for the urgent removal of the latest Zapiro cartoon, which features an erect penis with a showerhead and legs with an accompanying limerick about President Jacob Zuma.
“Government calls on Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) to withdraw his cartoon, and urges the Mail & Guardian to remove it from its website,” government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said in a statement.
The cartoon was a “defamatory attack” on Zuma's character and violated his rights to dignity as enshrined in the Constitution.
“It is disappointing that the Mail & Guardian published such a demeaning cartoon, especially following the recent debate about another offensive artwork.”
He was referring to a now-defaced painting by artist Brett Murray depicting Zuma with genitals exposed, which showed at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in May.
“While the Constitution and the government of South Africa promote freedom of expression, artists should ensure that they do not infringe on the rights of others, and that they build cohesion, dignity, and respect rather than undermine these imperatives.
Earlier, the ANC, which Zuma heads, the ANC Women's League (ANCWL), and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) issued statements condemning the cartoon.
The ANCWL said: “The Zapiro cartoons rely on their shock value to make an impact, but calling the president of this great nation a 'dick' is unacceptable and the WL would like to know who the 'we' he is referring to in the cartoon actually is, as the majority of the population who voted for the president clearly did not think this of Zuma.”
The ANC said: “As the ANC, we are taken aback by this so-called cartoon and comment by Zapiro.
“We find it unacceptable and shocking that after the harsh experiences that South Africa, the President, and his family experienced 1/8a 3/8 few weeks ago, that Zapiro and the Mail and Guardian will find it appropriate to continue with the insults and hurt to the President, his family, and the broader ANC constituency.”
Numsa said it was “littered with venomous and deep personal hatred” of Zuma.
“As Numsa we can come to no other conclusion but to accept that some white progressives of yesteryear have become racist and colonialist in their outlook since the advent of our new democratic dispensation.”
The ANC and Numsa have demanded an apology. - Sapa