365-ANC supportes protested outside the Primedia office against the "The congress of clowns" cartoon. Sandton Johannesburg 30.05.2014 Picture:Dumisani Dube

If anyone is to be called stupid here, it’s the cartoonists, says Khaya Dlanga.

Cape Town - Free speech does not mean we must tolerate everything. We should not use tolerance as an excuse. Nor should we hide behind free speech. Being controversial and insulting a whole group of people cannot be defended, nor should it be tolerated.

Even though Zapiro has got some flak over the years for some of his cartoons, at least he has been clever and has not insulted a whole group of people. His targets are the leaders.

The Eyewitness News cartoon depicting members of the new cabinet as clowns and then calling the people who voted for the ANC a derogatory name is beyond disgusting. The cartoon is crass and scrapes the bottom of the barrel of filth. It does not demonstrate wit but the cartoonist’s personal views and what they think about black people.

Had the cartoonists just said the members of the new cabinet were clowns, no one would have noticed or said anything. The role of the cartoonists is not to alienate people, but rather to present themselves as one of the people by making leaders targets of their pen. Targeting the people means you believe you are above them and not one of them.

One of the biggest mistakes the cartoonists made was to assume they know best. It is something Steve Biko called out in his I Write What I Like. The cartoonists are basically saying that in order for them to see black people as intelligent, the black person must do as the white man does, ie vote for the DA. Voting for the DA is demonstration of one’s intelligence and voting for the ANC is evidence that you are a stupid black person.

That cartoon said dumb people vote ANC. It is no secret that a majority of black people voted for the ANC, while on the other hand, a vast majority of white people voted for the DA. To quote Biko, “True to their image, the white liberals always knew what was good for the blacks and told them so.” That is precisely what that cartoon was doing. It was telling black people what is best for them.

I am not even angry at the cartoon calling people stupid, I am pissed off at how lazy it was. It’s all insult and no wit. If anyone is to be called stupid here, it’s the cartoonists, not the people of the ANC who decided to exercise their freedom by choosing to vote for the ANC.

The question needs to be asked if what the cartoonists depicted is what some people think privately about black people. Under apartheid black people were not only thought of as stupid, but were legislated as such. They were not given certain jobs because their little brains could not handle them.

In fact, Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, put it plainly when he was justifying why black people should not get the same education as white people. He justified why the state spent more than eight times on the education of a white child than it did on the matter of education and the “Bantu”.

“There is no place for (the Bantu) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour… What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.” There is little difference between what Verwoerd said and what the cartoon said last week.

I am glad the cartoon came out because it exposes a certain level of thinking that many of us were suspicious still exists.

Someone is not intelligent simply because they agree with the white point of view. True intelligence is accepting that people will have different views and will have justifications for them. There is no defending calling a whole race of people stupid. There is no justification for that.

* Khaya Dlanga is a social commentator and author of In My Arrogant Opinion.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Times