An ANC supporter holds a flag of the ANC while the President Jacob Zuma addresses ANC Gauteng Cadre Assembly in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg -

Eyewitness News was criticised on Thursday for using a cartoon described as containing racial undertones and extremely distasteful.

The South African Students Congress (Sasco) said students were deeply hurt and outraged at the cartoon published on Wednesday.

“South African students are appalled, outraged, and deeply hurt by the racist cartoon released by Prime Media Group entity Eyewitness News (EWN),” Sasco president Ntuthuko Makhombothi said in a statement.

“We find the cartoon highly offensive and extremely distasteful. We are saddened by the fact that in the twentieth year of celebrating our freedom, our people are still victims of blatant racism.”

The cartoon, titled “Congress of Clowns and the clowns who voted them in”, was posted on EWN's website, and depicted newly appointed ministers as clowns with big red noses.

On the side was another group of clowns, which were the voters, all in dark shading, standing and watching with a description reading “we the poephols”.

Makhombothi said the cartoon depicted cabinet members as “incapable buffoons” not capable of handling the affairs of the country.

“It seeks to affirm the stereotype that black governments cannot govern,” said Makhombothi.

“This is outright racism which is a direct insult to those who died during the fight against colonialism and apartheid.”

The African National Congress said the cartoon contained racial undertones and insulted voters.

“We view this in a serious light given the resilience of racism in the South African discourse and the condescending attitude demonstrated by some elements in the media and society,” spokesman Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

“Such attitudes, particularly from the media, reinforce the view that some sections of the media misuse the freedom of expression to undermine gains made thus far.”

The party called the cartoon appalling.

Kodwa said the ANC believed the media needed to counterbalance its freedom with responsibility and regard for the public.

“We expect the media to uphold democratic values and to reinforce responsibility based on ethical conduct,” he said.

EWN on Thursday sent out a note saying it had read and heard its listeners' views and passed them on to the cartoonist.

“We at EWN apologise for any unintended offence caused. We at EWN will continue to strive for free speech and editorial independence,” it said.

Makhombothi described the apology by EWN as “half-hearted”.

“Their flimsy apology is a further indication of the reluctance of South African media to accept the reality that they serve a class and racial interest,” Makhombothi said.

“We do not accept the excuse that all of this is in the name of media freedom and satire. This is blatant racism and nothing but the transformation of our media can be recourse for our people. “

Sasco would embark on a campaign to boycott EWN and other media houses under the Prime Media Group.

The ruling party said it would picket outside the Prime Media offices in Sandton at 8am on Friday. - Sapa