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Zapiro cartoon on justice system is justified

The outrage expressed by Numsa at the latest Zapiro cartoon in the Mail & Guardian fails to take into account the extreme nature of the circumstances giving rise to its conception. If it had done so it should have been hard-pressed to condemn it as “distasteful” and “deplorable”.

As things stand, we are witnessing an attempt to circumvent the legal system of South Africa in order to accommodate an individual.

The granting of medical parole to Schabir Shaik is, at best, highly dubious and certainly not in accordance with our laws. What is becoming evident is that any attempt to call upon parties to justify their conduct during the parole application, or thereafter, is either being stymied or ignored.

Having obtained Shaik’s release the question of fast-tracking a pardon has come to the fore. In this regard President Jacob Zuma has met with former apartheid hitman Eugene de Kock and speculation is rising about a possible trade-off. Pardon one from the left and one from the right and everyone goes home happy (in theory).

In reality you are allowing a party to the biggest corruption trial in South African history and a man who murdered people for their political beliefs to walk free because it has become expedient. In both cases a presidential pardon would be an insult to the majority of the people of South Africa, in truth, a total disregard for the laws of the country.

If those laws are unacceptable to people there are mechanisms to change them; what is happening at the moment is that existing laws are being ignored — which is how you fast-track an entire legal system towards anarchy.

That is what is actually “distasteful” and “deplorable”.

Against that backdrop, Zapiro has drawn a cartoon.

As a result Numsa claimed: “Whilst we respect and uphold the Constitution and freedom of expression, it does not give cartoonists licence to undermine the fundamental rights to dignity as guaranteed in the Constitution.”

This is a very astute description of the two rights in conflict here: freedom of expression versus the right to dignity.

Unfortunately, what most people tend to forget is that neither right is absolute and an individual party’s right to be protected thereby have to be assessed in accordance with the situation in which they present themselves.

In the context of Zapiro’s cartoon:

  • The parties involved are accurate.
  • While it may seem a drastic way of putting it, the criminal justice system is being raped. “Rape of a criminal justice system” is quite often how cartoonists and journalists describe the political abuse thereof.
  • The situation being described ie holding down the criminal justice system in order for individuals to get their own way is also accurate.

While the cartoon may have a shock effect, it pales into insignificance when compared to the repeated shocks that the public are being subjected to every time the truth is revealed about what is going on in this particular matter. In respect of De Kock alone, many of the people who were at risk of being executed ie black South Africans, are unaware of just how evil his deeds were or the scale of them.

If the government were to be fair to them and outline why they are releasing this gentlemen in accordance with their version and then allow the opposition to give the trade-off for the Shaik version — having explained properly who de Kock is — there can be little doubt that very few would be offended by the cartoon while many would judge the government’s conduct on this particular issue as “distasteful” and “deplorable”.

  • See The Z to Z of SA politics
  • Author

    • Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook


    1. Are you for real? Are you for real? 20 January 2010

      @Phillipa, you need to get out of your cave to air your brain and read the news!

    2. @Mntungwa Mbulazi @Mntungwa Mbulazi 20 January 2010

      Show me where Ubuntu is being practiced in this country?
      We all go on about it, but I am yet to see it? We are more divided now than at anytime in our history…the ANC acts on a take take take principal, I am yet to share in the wealth displayed by out leading ministers, BMWs fat salaries, fancy houses?
      Ubuntu? Perhaps you will need to educate me on its true meaning, cause I appear to have the wrong definition!

    3. Rose Morrow Rose Morrow 20 January 2010

      MuAfrika – what an utterly ridiculous post – people across the board are against both pardons for excellent reasons. Zapiro doesn’t discredit African Leaders – the ones who get flack fro Zapiro, political commentators and the media discredit themselves! Please man, they are not making up stories here – they are presenting facts and commenting on them.

    4. Hugh Robinson Hugh Robinson 20 January 2010

      @Dave Harris do you ever think before you write. Do you ever read further than that in front of you.

      That said, Mike I feel for you but the world and SA had warning of things to come when Zuma was,so to speak, let off the hook, .

      I fail to understand why the infringements of the Law are not fought by people like you? Surely you have recourse to do something against blatant infringements such as the happenings over the past months? Surely that would cause you and your group concern enough to take action?

      I believe it is not enough for those that have the knowledge to complain. Action by those who know how to stop it is what is required. Politicians always have an agenda but lawyers can do it without fear of reprisal.

    5. Paddy Paddy 20 January 2010


      Zuma, Shaik and co have discredited themselves by their actions and deeds.

      Zapiro has simply depicted this fact with a simple drawing.

    6. Ruth Longridge Ruth Longridge 20 January 2010

      Dave, you take yourself too seriously.I was not comparing Zuma to a monkey – just pulling your leg and didn’t expect it to come off in my hand.

      Anyone who knows me knows I’m no racist but I guess it’s the easiest route for you.

      BTW: Are your own kids monkeys? Hopefully, you haven’t got any! ;)

    7. Rose Morrow Rose Morrow 21 January 2010

      Ruth, now you are taking yourself too seriously!! Some terms of endearment for my grandson are “monkeybum” and “monkeyface”! No offence is taken – he is handsome and has an excellent little body for a nine year old….. “monkey say monkey do” is a little saying that describes a situation rather than insulting the person…. I think monkeys are very cute, incredibly agile and athletic and usually behave very well towards one another and they are really clever the way they get into my kitchen and help themselves to biscuits from my very well sealed plastic boxes and make off with the fruit if we accidently leave it out on the counter- I don’t think they maliciously kill or rape each other — so it’s not too bad a comparison anyway – in fact it is probably insulting to the monkey!! Human beings suffer from an exagerated idea of their own superiority in relation to the rest of creation and yet we continue messing everything up for each other and the planet…. Now I’m probably taking myself too seriously. Ja! Definitely!

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