(File image) Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who signs his work as Zapiro, is at the centre of another controversy after the publication of his latest cartoon about President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Schalk van Zuydam

Johannesburg - The South African Communist Party was appalled by Jonathan Shapiro's cartoon which was published in the Mail and Guardian, the party said on Sunday.

“This is indeed B-grade schoolboy lavatory stuff, unworthy of a once talented cartoonist and unworthy of a newspaper that pretends to be serious,” SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka said in a statement.

The cartoon features an erect penis with a showerhead and legs, and an accompanying limerick about President Jacob Zuma.

At the bottom corner of a mirror is the signature of artist Brett Murray and the name of the Goodman Gallery is also seen in the cartoon.

On Friday, the government called for the removal of the cartoon from the Mail and Guardian website.

Spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said the cartoon was a “defamatory attack” on Zuma's character and violated his rights to dignity as enshrined in the Constitution.

“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.”

The African National Congress said it had been taken aback by the cartoon.

“We find it unacceptable and shocking that after the harsh experiences that South Africa, the president, and his family experienced a 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,” it said.

The ruling party's Woman's League also condemned the cartoon on Friday.

“The Zapiro cartoons rely on their shock value to make an impact, but calling the president of this great nation a 'dick' is unacceptable,” ANC Women’s League spokesperson Troy Martens said.

Responding to criticism of the cartoon, Shapiro said the public should have the democratic right to be irreverent about leaders, especially those who “display hypocrisy”.

“My latest cartoon is meant to be scathing but humorous,” he said in an email, issued by his office, to Sapa.

“It's also serious commentary about a seriously flawed, hypocritical leader.” - Sapa