THORN IN JZS SIDE: Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro in his studio, after hearing that Jacob Zuma has dropped the lawsuit against him. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

It is beneath the dignity of the Office of the President to be suing a cartoonist. Why a powerful man would be so hell-bent on taking a man who makes drawings to the cleaners didn’t make sense to a lot of people. We all knew the case was unwinnable. Yet the president went on a four-year crusade against Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro).

In 2008, Jacob Zuma sued the cartoonist for R4 million in damages to his reputation and R1m for injury to his dignity. It was no different from a king who decides to imprison the court jester for telling jokes about him.

Zapiro is a court jester. I agree that sometimes he does go over the line, but that does not warrant oversensitivity.

As Nelson Mandela so eloquently put it: “It is a great error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism.”

Zuma has been remarkably thin-skinned when it comes to criticism.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with how he got to power and what was done to ensure that he got there.

When a king takes the throne under questionable circumstances, he sits uneasily on it for he fears that the truth might come out, or someone else might do to him what he did unto someone else.

Let us not forget the jogger who was arrested in 2010 for pulling a zap sign at the president’s motorcade.

If we were all that sensitive, the whole country would be in jail.

There is a Zapiro cartoon I took exception to earlier this year in which the president is depicted as a penis with a shower on its head. The cartoon was drawn after Brett Murray’s infamous painting The Spear.

The caption goes even further to say, “He’s as big a d*** as we thought!”

The cartoon was that of an angry, petty man who became personal instead of using the wit we have become accustomed to. In the past week, Zuma dropped his claim from R5m to R100 000 and demanded an apology from Zapiro.

The case was due to be heard in court yesterday, then suddenly the president withdrew the suit.

The insanity of all this is that the taxpayers continued to pay for the case even though Zuma’s legal team must have known that it was unwinnable.

Clearly, this was nothing more than intimidation tactics by the president.

He is quick to take others to court, but not so quick to obey the court. Zuma’s lawyers did not hand over the so-called spy tapes as they had been instructed to, which allegedly implicated former president Thabo Mbeki in abusing state power to get Zuma indicted for corruption.

We all know that the legality of the existence of the tapes was never tested in court, and neither was their inadmissibility.

There are questions around how Zuma’s legal team was able to get hold of tapes from a security state agency.

Who authorised the secret recording of a sitting president’s conversations? Who handed the tapes to Zuma’s team if they do in fact exist?

Zuma’s lawyers are obviously stalling for a reason in regard to this case. They don’t want the courts to be in possession of the tapes before Mangaung.

Perhaps the truth, provided the truth is a different version to the one we have been led to believe since the removal of Mbeki from office, might compromise Zuma in Mangaung.

Perhaps I should end off with Mandela, who said: “Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.”