South Africans do love to get their knickers in a twist, don’t we? The Sunday Times‘s Zapiro cartoon this past weekend had Jacob Zuma unbuttoning his knickers while Justice was being held down.

I’m trying to finish a book, I’m late with three chapters and I keep getting asked — no doubt as someone who is vociferous about violence against women — what I think of the cartoon.

If we interpret it as I think it should be — that it was intended to show Zuma f—ing with the justice system — then it is spot on. He has had close to 40 trials and every time a court finds against him, there is an appeal, and another. There was an investigation that failed against the head of the Scorpions; now there is one against prosecutor Billy Downer. Judge John Hlophe, the titular head of the Cape Bench, allegedly tried to sway members of the Constitutional Court in Zuma’s favour.

Marinus Wiechers, one of our most esteemed legal academics, has pointed out the dangers of such attempts at intimidating, manipulating and interfering with due legal process. In a country where our supposedly great Constitution is looking tattered and our Bill of Rights fragile, an impartial judiciary is what stops the world thinking we’re heading the way of our northern neighbours.

And frankly, the judiciary is showing disturbing signs of political interference already. The five seats becoming available on the Constitutional Court soon should give us all pause for reflection. Although prayer might be more useful.

And obviously Zapiro’s cartoon has allusions to the rape allegations levelled against Zuma, which were found insubstantial, or maybe it alludes to his many marriages, but Zuma is not a paragon of moral virtue, despite once heading the Moral Regeneration Movement, which had a brief existence in South Africa (no surprise). But also, Zapiro isn’t gentle and that’s why we love him.

In a country of often nauseating hypocrisy, he tells it like it is. I love him. We should make Zapiro a living national treasure as the Japanese do with the most brilliant purveyors of art forms in their society.

We as a nation need to grow up and instead of getting hysterical about everything, realise that we have freedom of expression. If we don’t like it, we can say so; but he has the right to draw it.

This is what makes me happy about living in South Africa at present:

  • Jo’burg weather
  • Zapiro
  • Jo’burg weather
  • Kgalema Motlanthe
  • Jo’burg weather
  • A publisher who doesn’t scream at me when my book is late
  • Jo’burg weather.

Now, the economy is in a mess. Can we get down and do a little work to begin repairing this country? And can we start with the roads?

Author

  • Charlene Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist, author and media consultant. She has had 14 books published, one of which was shortlisted for an Alan Paton award. Television documentaries for which she has worked have also won awards. She has worked as a broadcast journalist and radio-station manager. Smith's areas of expertise are politics, economics, women's and children's issues and HIV. She lives and works in Cambridge, USA.

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Charlene Smith

Charlene Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist, author and media consultant. She has had 14 books published, one of which was shortlisted for an Alan Paton award. Television documentaries for which...

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