Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Zuma vs Zapiro: the quest to leave no can of worms unopened

Unless I’m very much mistaken, every morning the senior leadership members of the ANC are requested to remove their shoes in order to inspect their feet and thereby avoid putting a bullet in the same foot as they did the day before. And every day almost like clockwork the sounds of gunshots ring out from Luthuli House as they proceed to plug the other foot leaving themselves hopping mad.

Indeed, if the Zanu-PF has loosed an epidemic of cholera and anthrax on their population, our lot has the worst case of Foot-and-Mouth disease in history whereby the only time they open their mouths is to change feet.


Let’s use the Zuma versus Zapiro as a classic example. If President Motlanthe stretched his neck out of joint in order to waive away the clamour for an arms deal probe then why would the ANC president Jacob Zuma offer an easy ride via a civil suit back door?

Still not?

We have been informed that Zuma’s attorneys have been instructed to demand R7- million from Zapiro for the damages suffered as a result of the infamous/famous “Rape of the criminal justice system cartoon”, failing which a summons will be issued. You can access it by popping across to Zapiro through clicking on the Mail & Guardian above and working your way through the section on Zapiro.

The first thing that many (not all) attorneys point out in defamation cases is that the way to increase your damages exponentially is to sue the party making the statement (drawing the cartoon). In this case we have seen all the hullaballoo hit the fan, then calm down, only to be reignited by the Zuma camp.

I’m not sure if anyone who made the analysis before relighting this fuse checked the prevailing winds on corruption and the ANC but the sentiment appears to be simmering hostility. Many people believe that the criminal justice system is being abused by politicians and failure to take heed of Ginwala and Khampepe is seen as proof of the total disregard the executive has for the criminal justice system, the judiciary and beyond.

So into that storm, the hurricane concerning the cartoon having blown over, and coming soon to a court near you, they bring back the whole sordid mess about Zuma and Zapiro?

Jacob Zuma and Zapiro’s depiction of his purported rape of the criminal justice system.

Not only resuscitate it but peg it to the wall of our civil courts because, every time a pleading is served or anything remotely connected to this civil suit happens, a wall of newspaper print is going to come flooding down on the South African public. Including a copy of the cartoon under debate.

So moving towards election 2009 we can look forward to the Zuma criminal trial being played out in the media and then of course the civil trial about a cartoon, which is going to be shown with every article printed on the subject (thousands?). The ANC who are depicted as purportedly assisting Zuma and Zuma getting all the negative publicity worldwide that their opponents could possibly want and Zapiro, who last time I checked wasn’t running for office, totally unfazed by it all.

As I said: how do you make defamation exponentially larger?

Sue the other party.

Unfortunately that is the smaller problem.

In order to defend himself Zapiro is going to claim fair comment or truth and public benefit relating to Zuma and the ANC’s purported involvement in corruption. Once Zapiro has filed his plea to the summons and pleadings close his attorneys are going to call for “discovery” of all documents that are relevant to this case.

I’m sure that even a first year law student would understand that relevant in this case means anything to do with the ANC or Zuma purportedly trying to manipulate the criminal justice system, which covers inter alia the arms deal and anything else in respect of which Zuma or the ANC are being accused of. In other words, while we are waiting for the trial and seeing pictures of this cartoon on a daily basis, we will be treated to stories about the ANC claiming privilege and interests of national security relating to documents, which you can bet will be named in the media in order not to discover them.

Of course it will then be up to the judge and counsel to argue about whether all these documents are relevant or privileged in the High Court while the media feast on this arms deal probe by proxy.

The damage to the ANC and Zuma by this stage, both locally and internationally, will be like the Zimbabwean inflation rate – no longer worth calculating.

Just one question?

When you shoot yourselves in the foot like this, do you use a small calibre handgun?

Rather use a shotgun leaving stumps – that way you’ll have to hobble along giving you time to think before you nuke the other foot.

Kgalema Motlanthe Cartoon
President of South Africa cartoon

  • siyabonga ntshingila

    hee hee hee.one does wonder at times who it is that counsels uNxamalala

  • Fritz Schoon

    Interesting angle. Furthermore, think of the repercussion – with regard to preparing for the upcoming eleciton – if a judge should find in favour of the defense that the cartoon was fair and reasonable comment.

  • John

    I haven’t read the letter of demand, so I have a question:

    Is Zuma’s complaint that Zapiro depicted him as corrupt or that Zapiro depicted him as a rapist despite the fact that the court found him innocent on that charge?

    Second question: If it is the latter, will proof of corruption of perceived corruption be relevant?

  • Craig

    I think Zuma is scared of doing his day job. He seems to enjoy being in court.

  • spoiler

    Good post – the stupidity in the upper ecehelons of the ANC is beyond belief. Wonder how much money JZ’s attorneys and counsel have made out of him at our expense…

  • Old,female,paleface

    In my humble opinion – the best article you have written to date!!
    It is a serious expose of the stupidity in the ANC and, at the same time, is screamingly funny. My type of humour!
    AT last someone in the ANC. National Executive Clueless, gang, have realised that they are giving COPE all the publicity it could dream of.
    Maybe they will eventually realise that Zuma keeps himself in the spotlight by whatever means – hook or crook.
    Politics is my source for humour.
    Zuma and ANC crooks are a source of great wealth to the Legal Profession.
    May these gluttons live a short life for they will ultimately deplete the coffers.

  • radiodave


    i for one cannot wait.

  • http://www.ozoneblue.co.za ozoneblue

    Zapiro’s obsession with Zuma does seem rather bizarre and one sided. Just this week Philip Dexter was being investigated with by the Scorpions for his alleged corrupt activities as chairman of MEGA and then we have Mr. Oilgate, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as a high profile member of COPE. Yet – not a single beep on M&G website during the past few weeks about those inconvenient truths. Even M&G reports about the raids on John Bredenkamp and BAE went well out of their way not to mention Thabo Mbeki or implicate anybody outside of the usual shit smearing target group – and where was the Zapiro cartoon implicating Tony Blair after he squashed investigations into the well publicized BAE/ Saudi Arabia arms deal ?

    I also thought Lekota’s lack of democratic support together with his this endearing empathy for tyrant Mbeki perhaps read with this link http://www.polity.org.za/article.php?a_id=39093 would provide ample ammunition for a Zapiro cartoon when Lekota was elected leader of the new “democratic”, incorruptible COPE.

  • pete ess

    Blam! Blam! I’ve been saying for some time now that the ANC is WAY too busy in-fighting, and jostling to get near Mr Zuma to actually, you know, govern or anything.
    Now we see they were even too busy to register for elections! LOL!

    NOTHING is being done at the moment, nothing! Everyone is huddling around looking over their shoulders. The only SAFE thing to do as a comrade is to slag off COPE, so that’s the fulltime occupation for now.

    The hugely worrying thing is every civil servant, every govt worker, every head of dept, every DG, EVERYONE, is simply sitting still, knowing that the safest thing to do is – nothing.
    There is no way you could get fired for not doing your actual, you know, job, so forget 2008. It’s over, productivity-wise. And don’t bank on much of 2009.

    Watch their election manifesto. Coming soon to a theatre of dreams near you.
    What’s the bet it’ll be hastily cobbled together and will simply say EVERYTHING. No-one will want to argue. Too dangerous!
    (Hopefully!!!!!!) the electorate know what will be delivered is – nothing. That may not stop them from voting ANC, though.

    Isn’t democracy wonderful?!?!?

  • Dawn

    Doesn’t this whole episode just demonstrate what’s wrong with Zuma, and the ANC as a whole? They don’t appear to be able to see (or think) beyond their noses. And when those who are not so short-sighted point out the problems we are racist/and or unpatriotic.

  • Mark

    Beyond belief… I can’t wait for this to play out!

  • http://mandrake.amagama.com Mandrake

    Hey Traps

    With Malema, Vavi and Mantashe as alternating clutches maybe he doesn’t need feet. Just a thought

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    The ANC’s first reaction to any threat is intimidation. Zapiro refused to remove the showerhead because Zuma sued him, and Zapiro would not be intimidated.

    Sounds like this new case is going to be even more fun.

  • Paul Whelan

    This article answers the question it asks.

    The ANC – Zuma once more in this case – continue along the disastrous public relations course they do because of an unshakeable conviction that their (hitherto) unchallenged power is in every respect their just entitlement.

    For them to be slighted in any way is, therefore, simply against the proper order of things – in every sense, ‘wrong’. The wrongdoers must be castigated publicly, expelled, punished, sued.

    Of course it is irrational and dangerous. Of course it is anti-democratic.

    It is also a serious warning to us all how one-party rule has after 15 short years resulted in an ANC blind drunk on power.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    OzoneBlue – Nice site

  • Jason Kentridge

    I am loving every second of this – watching stupidity play out is so entertaining. I must say, Zuma is claiming R2 million for damage to his “dignity” and R5 million for damge to his “reputation”. After everything ol’ JZ Superstar has been getting up to, I would value these at R1.99 and R0.99 respectively, and I doubt a court will differ (unless Uncle Hlope presides). Zapiro for president…or Traps for president!

  • Paul Whelan

    Nothing is more difficult to comprehend than the attitude of those who apparently believe that because COPE leaders/members are not morally irreproachable that somehow forgives the greedy years of grabbing within the ranks of the ANC.

    Apart from the fact that most leading politicans inevitably spring from the the same corrupted and corrupting source – an hegemonic ANC – what is better for SA?

    More now of the last 15 years?

    Or that thieves have fallen out?

  • pasile

    You guys should perhaps do what Mbeki proposed. GO to Europe or Australia where you dont have to deal with incompetent natives. The leaders in Europe, Australia and North America concern themselves with bombing other people’s countries whilst preaching human rights, and bailing out the corporations, whilst advocating nonintervention in the magical market. And by the way before you exagerate your importance- it’s important to remind you that- You only talking to each other, the VAST MAJORITY of the people in this country do not know you, do not share your views and do not care about them. They however KNOW and Love JACOB ZUMA. Elections are coming, go out and vote for Zille or your new hyper- democratic,self-elected darkies in COPE. They do have the madam Lynda, so they really rainbowy!

  • Dave Coventry

    Traps, two things.

    First of all, you know lawyers. They will have told Zuma that that is the payout he can expect if he wins the case. They don’t ever tell you that your chances of winning are slim. And Zuma’s eyes would have lit up: 2 nyonis with one stone. Not only does JZ (or should that be JC, I keep getting the two mixed up!) pick up the 7 million bucks, but he also takes Zapiro to the cleaners: double whammy, yessir.

    The second thing is that you cannot expect any court case against Zuma to have the slightest impact on his popularity. The people that believe that he is Christ will continue to support him, those that never did, won’t.



    How about an editorial entitled “ANC Zanufication of the media is on the cards” ?

    Seems to me that Paul Whelan on December 19th, 2008 at 4:02 pm has really hit the nail on the shower-head. It is a pity that you (Trapzuman) have not alluded to these dangerous ramifications. As an ANC stalwart, are you perhaps trying to pull the wool over your reader’s eyes?

    My guess is that your editorials are leading your readers on a meandering journey. But at the end, you will inevitably indicate why, with various misgivings, you are still voting ANC. Forgive me if I am overly cynical, but there is method in your ANC madness.


    Zuma PF’s decision to sue Zapiro must be seen in its wider political “poetic” context. Unfortunately, Zuma is not nuking himself in the foot by suing Zapiro. It is much more likely that freedom of expression will be “nuked” insrtead.
    I apologize to those who have read it, but I think that ZUMALEMA is now even more relevant…

    Our dilemma is Zumalema,
    Viva, Amandla, South Africa
    Wama mshini wama
    Is this the legacy of Mandela?
    What has happened to The ANC?
    Has it been taken over by The SACP?
    Is this really meant to be?
    Is this why, we now are free?

    Well, they weren’t exactly over the moon,
    When they saw Zapiro’s Zuma cartoon.
    Outraged by the obscene, pants-down, drawing
    Justice raped was seen to have been appalling.
    But is the pen mightier than the sword?
    And if so, are libel damages a sufficient reward?
    Blade, singing, took the shining knife out
    And flashed it menacingly about…
    “My mother was a kitchen girl,
    My father was a garden boy
    That’s why I’m a communist”
    The rest, a different dialect, I missed.
    He then said that Zuma had actually been raped
    A terrible fate for his victorious mate
    Celebrating now after Judge Nicholson concluded that the prosecution
    Was politically motivated and procedurally flawed.
    So the shower head is a helpless victim
    Thabo Mbeki just wants to convict him
    This is where our nation stands
    Yes, this is where our nation lands.

  • Ross Gordon

    I am not sure that it will be possible to just pick on one aspect of the cartoon. A cartoon surely must be taken in its entirety. If your imagination wishes to connect the word rape to the fact that Zuma was found not guilty of rape, that has not got anything to do with, the abuse of the criminal justice system. Rape is an abuse, it is used throughout the english language in the context that it was used in the cartoon.
    The same type of argument also applies to Mbeki in trying to join himself on the nicholsen judgment, once you are in court you are to a large extent not in control of how the court case will be conducted, you certainly do not have the final say as to what constitutes evidence. Sure there are rules, but that are not your personal rules, so you can expect surprises.

  • Bennett

    Makes me wonder. What reputation or what dignity is Zuma trying to protect. He is an embarrasment to this beautiful country of ours, implicated in court documents of another court verdict successful conviction in corrupt activities. Zuma is going to be the reason for the downfall of the ANC, who cannot claim the moral high ground anymore, thanks to the Malemas, Mantashes and Vavis that are still trying to squabble positions of power in the next government.
    If only 7 million people will contribute R1 or 3,5 million contribute R2, or… Let us support Zapiro in his defence against that bully. Funny how he recognise himself in Zapiro’s cartoons, an admission of some sorts, or an identification of some sorts?
    Zapiro, you have my support, ANC, you will never ever have my support again.

  • Perplexed

    Traps, I think in the ANC, one is dealing with angry foolish people that are desperately trying to put out “Bush fires” that are starting to light up, all around them…and dont have a clue/refusing to accept/dont have the spine, to tackle the origins of the fire, that is burning away furiously. In the process..I feel, its starting to dawn on the ANC, that they are starting to lose the battle…and its starting to engulf them. People do very irrational and bizzare things when they become scared, frightened and desperate.



    ” I would like to see one category added. Political Sociopathic Personality Disorder: People who seek political power to advance anti social aims like promoting religious or class conflict, excessive interest in war, torture and/or war profiteering, and a pathological need to lie, misrepresent, and/or distort facts to justify these ends. Such a condition will also include an inability to accept personal responsibility to errors in judgement, planning or administration of decisions.”

    — martin, New York

  • Old,female,paleface

    ozoneblue – thank you for the link – enlightening information for the future.
    AT present, Zuma and ANC are the focus of the media. They are the leaders who only know how to ruler and their will is important not dissidents waiting in the wings.
    Once Cope “functions” in parliament – watch this space !
    DA is a veteran at criticism for “failures.”
    Cope has yet to learn and their tainted choices will come back to haunt them. No NP snake, that slithered over the aisle, has any credibility. Zapiro “bottom of the barrel” said it all.
    However, de Klerk was a NP member who stood up from under the tyranny of the party – and you presently live in the consequences of his bravery and Mandela’s generosity of spirit.
    Maybe Lekota and Cope actions will transform the nation’s loyalty ?
    Enormous “maybe!”
    A new party inaugurated within years, by the matured, educated “born frees” definitely will transform RSA.
    That is a given.

  • Cynic

    Where is the proof-reader?

    Wave away, not waive away

    Otherwise a good article. Gotta love old JZ and his henchmen.

  • Siobhan

    Well argued, Traps. ‘Political licence’ is a principle in law in most countries–apart from fascist and communist hold-overs. Inability to deal with political satire is a hallmark of the authoritarian narcissist. The ANC seems to have more than its fair share of such prima donna types in the upper ranks. Hmmm.

    Zuma’s unbridled impulses–including the one that governs his tongue–trip him up every time. First, he decided to sue Bullard then he reduced the claim. He sued someone else for R5m and settled for R50k. He has how many lawsuits on the go? More than a dozen, I believe.
    Sounds like a ‘cottage industry’…


    Interesting to consider whether Jane Duncan ( exec director of “The So Called Freedom of Expression Institute”) might have “inadvertently” encouraged Zuma to sue Zap.

    Is Duncan an attorney specializing in libel or a defender of freedom of expression in South Africa ??

    The following is worth deciphering…


    Jane Duncan, the executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute in Johannesburg, said she had initially thought the cartoon to be “quite risky”.

    Duncan also believes that Zuma may have a case against Zapiro.

    “Yes, Zuma can sue Zapiro for defamation because it could evoke an association with the rape trial and depicting him as a rapist while he was not found guilty,” she said. “A cartoon is a creative form of expression and it can be read in different ways. So I think the cartoonist should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

    She added: “A cartoonist is a lot freer than a journalist”.


    Did Trapzuman also “inadvertently” encourage Zuma to sue Zapiro?

    Interesting to re-read what Trapzuman wrote on his TL blog a while back….


    “Zapiro’s cartoon in the Sunday Times, depicting a woman symbolising the justice system being held down by the ANC, SACP, ANCYL and Cosatu, with Julius Malema telling Jacob Zuma, who is unbuttoning his pants, to “go for it”, may well have crossed the line of what constitutes fair comment.

    The cartoon seems to suggest that the ANC president is about to rape the criminal justice system with the parties set out above assisting him by holding “her” down.

    While Zapiro is entitled to use the metaphor of rape to highlight local misgivings concerning the attack on the criminal justice system, it is in light of JZ’s acquittal for rape tantamount to a rejection of the findings of a judge operating within the system he seeks to protect.

    Moreover, it shows a total lack of sensitivity to the aggressive nature of current South African discourse. I feel that Zapiro, as someone who does the most amazing work generally, has let himself down on this one.

    His decision to withhold an apology is unfortunate.”

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy


    If you are such a Zuma fan can you please explain how he can be a Christian pastor and a polygomist with 4 wives? I don’t mind him not being a Christian, but I am deeply offended by him pretending to be one.


    To : All readers of this blog.

    Re; “Will Mondli fire Zapiro.”

    So why did attorney Trapzuman have to conclude,,
    (1) “Zap’s decision to withhold an apology is unfortunate.”
    (2) “it is in light of JZ’s acquittal for rape tantamount to a rejection of the findings of a judge”

    Surely if attorney Trapzuman was supporting freedom of expression he would have defended Zapiro rather than giving free legal advice to Jacob Zuma?

    Of course, I also have a quest “to leave no can of worms unopened”.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    Blacklist – I’ve read through all your comments over the last two posts.

    I genuinely believe your arguments are worth the following response…..


    Re:Michael Trapido on December 20th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Re your genuine belief that my comments are unworthy of a response, it is worth noting that Jane Duncan (FXI) has also remained silent so you might feel that you are in fine company.

    Of course, you can also plead The Fifth.
    However, your readers (the jury) will draw their own conclusions. Sometimes a decision to keep silent works in the defendant’s favour, but as a criminal attorney, you will also know that such a line of defence is extremely risky and often leads to conviction.

  • T. Kwetane

    If “Trapzuman” was no a Democratic Party supporter and voter I would have posted a very hash and critical responce highlighting among other things his hypocrisy and him fooling genuine ANC supporters for this long. But Trapzuman is truly a DA supporter and voter and since we plan to work very closely with the DA (I would have slice my face with a beer bottle head 3 years back for saying this) I have to abide. No regress here fellas, the only constant is change and right now the ANC is failing like sickly ducks in muddy waters.

    Keep up the good work Trapzuman, ANC’s time is… UP!

    BLACKLISTED DICTATOR you are spoiling things, take it easy, the more ANC people Traps offends (or converts thru his clever mission) the more we gain! He is shinning a little light in the ANC black hole or hell cell or what ever suits you…there is no *pink* hole for racists (why everything has to be turned into race politics?), take a chill pill!!!

    /flame me…

  • M. F. Cassim

    The cartoon shows an ANC collective attempting the violation of Lady Justice? How does the collective become just one person being ‘defamed’?


    I wonder how much Zumalema has “injured South Africa in its dignity and reputation and as a result thereof it has suffered damages and intimidation in the amount of R7-trillion??” Surely, there is a human rights lawyer out there who can take on the case on behalf of the people?
    And if there isn’t, would you take the case on? I am sure that some of your readers might club together and pay your expenses. Mike, whayyasay, are you up for it?

  • http://gmail Mbuzeni Ngwenya

    Much as it is the freedom of expression we also need to read between the LINES.If it is correct for Zapiro to express his opion in the manner that he did in JZ’s case,then Mr Zuma is also correct to take any steps he believes are necessary and he is within his legal as well as democratic rights to sue or not to sue.What is wrong with that?

  • Perplexed

    @blacklisted…good counter comment..I like the way you think

  • Perplexed

    @Blacklisted..ps…Despite,that…I think Traps article is brilliant.. although I have found Trapuzaman to become slightly angry and defenceable ..when defending the indefenceable/ANC


    Zuma believes that he has had a v.rough deal from the press. Jeremy Gordin’s “Zuma” biography seems a desperate attemt to redress the balance. It is no coincidence that Blade Nzimande introduced the book at The Hyde Pk launch where the reiterated that Zuma had been much maligned by the press.
    Most communists are extremely uncomfortable with a liberal democratic media and I reckon that, as time progresses, attempts will be made to control it.
    An out of court settlement might eventually be reached with The Sunday Times in respect of the Zap cartoon. Perhaps Mondli will have the guts and financial resources to hold out but the pressure will be immense as the new “Zumalema/Shaik” regime consolidates power next year.


    Was Malema’s “Kill for Zuma” promise, actually “raping” justice or “killing/murdering” justice?

    Perhaps the Zap trial end-up as a linguistic argument? Academics might be called to give evidence.

    Would Zuma have been happier if the cartoon had shown him (and Malema) with knives stabbing justice to death. Perhaps Zap’s visuals were, ironically enough, too mild?

  • K Morrow

    I hope that this one sticks as it it going to provide us all with a good giggle; unlike the last two cases which the ANC abandoned ( Cape by election blaps and the COPE name challenge ) I was so looking forward to seeing egg on their faces.Please keep on shooting yourself in the foot ANC.