Zapiro sticks up for freedom of speech

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PN_PN SHAPIRO20 INLSA Jonathan Zapiro Shapiro

Staff Reporter and Sapa

THE BROADER public should be able to say what it really thinks about its leaders, especially those who “display hypocrisy”, cartoonist Zapiro says.

The cartoonist, real name Jonathan Shapiro, was reacting to criticism of his latest cartoon, published in the Mail & Guardian on Friday. The cartoon depicts President Jacob Zuma as an erect, grumpy-faced penis with a showerhead, looking at himself in a mirror hanging in the Goodman Gallery.

Artist Brett Murray’s signature is in the bottom right corner. Murray made headlines when his painting The Spear, showing Zuma with his genitals exposed, formed part of an exhibition at the gallery.

The limerick in Zapiro’s cartoon says: “Though sex is his publicised sport, Zuma took the dick-painting to court, Suing Brett’s free expression confirmed the impression, He’s as big a dick as we thought!”

Shapiro said: “My latest cartoon is meant to be scathing but humorous. It’s also serious commentary about a seriously flawed, hypocritical leader.”

The illustration is under the heading “The Spear to be raised at Social Cohesion Summit”, referring to the meeting called by Zuma earlier last week. Shapiro said he did not put The Spear back on the agenda. “I responded to reports that it would be discussed at the Social Cohesion Summit,” he said.

“The ANC asks why I didn’t come to the summit: I wasn’t invited.

“If I had gone, I’d have said dissident views were vital in a democracy and were a force for change.”

He said The Spear matter had not been resolved properly. “The ANC bullied the Goodman Gallery and City Press into compromising. Freedom of expression suffered a blow.”

The cartoonist was sceptical of the summit because it was an attempt to “encourage conformity rather than real diversity”.

“Dissident views are essential for real change. Irreverence towards leaders who take themselves too seriously is a vital part of democracy”.

“If ANC spokespeople feel the cartoon should be ignored, then they are free to ignore it.”

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) said it was up to Shapiro whether he wanted to apologise. FXI’s Rashied Galant said in this case an apology wouldn’t make a difference in terms of the constitution.

The SACP said it was appalled by the cartoon. “This is indeed B-grade schoolboy lavatory stuff, unworthy of a once-talented cartoonist and unworthy of a newspaper that pretends to be serious,” said SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka.

Earlier, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi called on Shapiro and the newspaper to withdraw the cartoon, saying it was a “defamatory attack” on Zuma’s character and violated his rights to dignity as enshrined in the constitution.


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