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Zuma makes a joke of justice (again)

The rush. The people asking you questions like you’re someone important. The small glass of water for your gentle sipping between questions. The cameras on you. The lights. The news coverage. Is our president addicted to court?

I can’t see any other explanation for his decision to once again waste taxpayers’ money on suing someone who has done more to reflect the realities of South Africa in a way that we can relate to, with the added bonus of laughter, than anyone else. Zuma sues Zapiro. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to get his fix. Despite the fact that the South African Human Rights Commission already found that it wasn’t hate speech, Zuma charges defamation.

Obviously I think that the charges are ridiculous, but more worrying is that our pres thinks it’s acceptable to take time away from running our country (into the ground?) in order to pursue personal ego-stroking on the public stage. Zuma loves a day in court. Since he was brought there under charges of rape, and then corruption, he must have become an addict, and now he goes on his own steam.

The best thing is that all Zuma is doing is indicating how true a reflection of SA this cartoon is. Once again, our president holds free speech hostage and makes a joke of justice. Zapiro couldn’t make this stuff up if he tried.

I just wish we had someone in government who was more concerned with running a non-violent healthy country than with his ego.


  • Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing project called 'My First Time'. It focuses on women's stories of significant first time experiences. Buy the book on the site or via Modjaji Books. Jen's first novel, The Peculiars, came out in February 2016 and is published by Penguin. Get it in good book stores, and on


  1. Perry Curling-Hope Perry Curling-Hope 15 December 2010

    This is certainly a waste of taxpayer’s money….from the payer’s perspective, not from the spender’s viewpoint.

    Resurrecting the Zapiro issue has nothing to do with anyone’s ego and everything to do with opportune politicking.

    If a ‘media’ person can lampoon individuals, (and the very president, nogal) violating their ‘right to dignity’ and the courts fail to protect them and be an avenue of redress, as this Zapiro thing ‘clearly demonstrates’, then remedy must be instituted….in the form of a separate media tribunal.

    The court action has been instituted at this time to hammer some more political capital out of the Zapiro cartoon, and garner popular support for very unpopular legislation (outside of the political class and the politically connected, that is)

    A non violent society can only be realized through eliminating power imbalances, not only those between men and their female and familial compatriots, but between public servants and the individuals constituting such public which they are bound to serve.

    The very nature of the State is premised upon force and implicit violence.
    Pay up or we’ll hurt you, even if the president is going to use to use those taxes to curtail your right to freedom of expression.
    The ‘willing taxpayer contributing his share’ is a euphemistic myth…..willingness cannot prevail when the alternative is the threat of violence.

    It is hardly surprising that society is so violent when the entire statist paradigm regulating human interaction embraces a culture of coercion and force.

  2. Lynne Lynne 15 December 2010

    Actually, when I heard about this I smiled. It’s almost worth the tax money. All the nasty details are going to get a fresh airing. Just when his acolytes thought all those skeletons had been relegated to the cupboard, Big Z decides to rattle them again. Cool.

  3. Thomas Thomas 15 December 2010

    I love your article. It is surely written by elite trying to justify why some elite satirist would insinuate that the president is a rapist. As for the HRC I don’t take this institution seriously even lady Zille regards them as a waste of tax payers’ money. Walk down the street of a township and ask anyone what the Cartoon means, then you will understand. Anyway in South Africa, the poor township folk view is non existent. Its good satire: if the elite believe it is.

  4. ian shaw ian shaw 15 December 2010

    It is clear that Zuma wants to justify the media tribunal, setting himself up as a victim of an “elitist” conspiracy. This approach won him the presidency before and he is using it again. “Elitists” (i.e. the better educated) can clearly discern the symbolic meaning of the “rape” depicted by Zapiro. The rape of justice and even the murder of justice is used as an expression in many langauges. Yet it is not my intention to defend Zapiro, the facts that he depicted speak for themselves.

  5. pete ess pete ess 15 December 2010

    I’ve a feeling our president doesn’t decide things. I think they get decided for him, and he nods. He owes so much to so many he dare not take a stand on anything. Cry the Beloved Country.

  6. Piet Snot Piet Snot 15 December 2010

    President Zuma was elected with an overwhelming majority AFTER publication of the ‘offending’ cartoon. In addition to getting married (again), engaged-to-be-married (again) and fathering his 22nd child, making him SA’s REAL Player 23. How does he intend to show that his image/career/life has been harmed?

  7. Larry Lachman Larry Lachman 15 December 2010

    I am concerned that this issue has been purposely re-hashed to coincide with the run-up to the 2011 elections.
    What better way to cement a support base than to intentionally polarise the voters with an issue that drips with undertones of racism against a black president.

    And once again, is distracts and detracts our attention away from current issues that need reflection. Zuma’s buddy Roux Shabangu got a gift of a R500 million lease on a dodgy tender deal for the new police buildings in Pretoria while the current lease which still runs for another ten years must also be honored. Disgusting – all of this.

  8. Lari Lari 15 December 2010

    I think the constitution also provide people like the president a landscape to exercise their right freely without being judged by the media courts to voice their concerns, just like Zapiro who expressed his views. Let the real courts decide.

  9. Lenny Appadoo Lenny Appadoo 15 December 2010

    @ Thomas
    I’m sure the township folk won’t appreciate you acknowledging their ignorance.

    @ pete ess
    You’ve perhaps hit the nail on the head. Didn’t Zapiro produce such a cartoon about our puppet?

  10. Lenny Appadoo Lenny Appadoo 15 December 2010

    @ Jennifer
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now is there a fund somewhere where us “elites” can contribute to defend Zapiro?

  11. John John 15 December 2010

    Consider the differences between Hyenas and South African politicians.

    One group are scavengers who hunt as a pack, targeting the old, the young and the sick in a herd. They are unable to survive on their own and are opportunists. They are a mangy bunch and even their bark sounds like an insincere laugh. They bully others into giving up hard earned carcases. They contribute nothing to the ecosystem, they just destroy…

    But the hyenas, on the other hand are just a dog like animal of the cyanine genus.

  12. Haiwa Tigere Haiwa Tigere 15 December 2010

    Thanks Thomas.Who cares what the township folks think? After all they dont have the vote or do they?My only disappointment is he is not looking for 20 million.
    Caffe latte anyone?

  13. Lesego Lesego 16 December 2010

    There’s a saying that, “For things to go wrong, it takes all GOOD MAN (woman included) to sit back & do nothing & that we have to be the change we want to see.

    I’m not much of political person, but I kindly would like to know as to what would it take for opposition parties to call on a referundum on some of the decission that government subjects us to?

    I know a lot of people who’re tired & want to see change.

    As South African citizens, what recourse do we’ve & are we condoning this nonsense? How did things get so ugly, what’s in for non anc members in South Africa society.

    Let’s join hands & work towards change by leading one person at a time, & pray that God excelerate the process of changing the government, officials or whoever needs to be changed, otherwise we’re just going to continue being subject to nonsense.

    I still believe that South Africa can be a much better country for ALL who live in it.

    Let’s stand together against everything that isn’t RIGHT.

  14. Thamie_Durban Thamie_Durban 16 December 2010

    I think you are being unfair to the President Jen. He has as much right to defend his dignity as you and every SA citizen. Whether he is successful or not is not up to you, but the justice system.

  15. Sparks Sparks 16 December 2010

    J Z wants to give thanks to his lawyers with taxpayers money. The lawyers will get cash for the case they know they will lose. This is a proffesional coruption.

  16. cyberdog cyberdog 16 December 2010

    Thomas, There is no need to try justify Zapiro’s actions. Zapiro is an artist, a Messenger. He merely portrays the current events in the political scene. What kind of cowardly fool would try shoot the messenger. WoW!. It is the equivalent of prosecuting a painter for painting an image of hitler killing people. It defies logic. Zapiro did not make anything up or tell any lies. He took the events around him, and used his talent to create an image representing the information at the time. The Cartoon was distasteful, everything about zuma and that whole saga at the time was extremely distasteful. IMHO, the cartoon was an accurate depiction of the events at the time. If you do not like what you see, why not get rid of the problem, shooting the messenger is distasteful and cowardly. Destroying the media, or parts thereof, for publicizing information is absurd, it is our right to know. Giving away that right can only end badly. With regards to the poor township people being mis-represented, they have the power and the right to change that. It is, and has been their choice to reward any political party’s immoral behavior with their votes. By disabling the media, all that is happening is that that choice of intelligent voting will be taken away from them. It will turn them into a bunch of finger puppets. Information is power. Take that information away and you will cripple the nation.

  17. David Brown David Brown 16 December 2010

    The rest of the world is preoccupied with the energy crisis and how to get out of it and SA is back to basics with a round of litigations. Who steers the ship or even knows where the life boats are stored?

  18. MLH MLH 16 December 2010

    Methinks the man has just run out of pocket money with no new arms deal in sight.
    Lesego, you are so right, but what’s in in for the majority of ANC voters, either? This type of crass wastefulness is as bad as bribery, fraud and corruption! Which department subtracts the cost of these court cases offf its budget? The presidency, Justice? Is allowance made on the budget each year for them? Perhaps we should simply refuse to allow some payments to be made out of the common purse any more. Why, also, are we paying for the ANCYL’s kissing bash. The ANC’s making enough from state-owned agencies and parastatals to fund it itself. Hoe dares a government waste money so readily and preach to the private sector about capping salaries (although some of those salaries could well be capped without the recipients starving).

  19. AMS Haven AMS Haven 16 December 2010

    This has now reached first world headlines – no wonder Zuma visits countries like Cuba where he writes off maore than a billion rand of their debt to South Africa. No leader of any significance would want him in their country – he is an embarrassment to them and to South Africa.

  20. Hugh Robinson Hugh Robinson 16 December 2010

    Of coarse he gets free Legal support monetary and other wise so he can afford to sue who he wishes.

    The other act of sueing is the bloke who spilled a drink on zuma. Anyone who is in their right mind will write that off as a bad experience.

    Then there is the guy who showed the entourage the finger. I think out President is a little on the thin skinned side. Must be the guilt cloud over his head.

  21. Nguni Nguni 16 December 2010

    Spot on!

    He can defend his ‘dignity’ (is there any left in such a person?) like anyone else can, with HIS OWN MONEY, not with taxpayers money. Everyone with a NORMAL understanding of justice and English knows what ‘raping justice’ means..

  22. Trevor Trevor 16 December 2010

    Zapiro and Zuma. Ha! What shall we say?
    Here’s a respected cartoonist and sharp social critic – a man of integrity, fidelity,without reproach,universally admired, moral character,like him or not. The money he uses is his own; not a hint of populist about him; not a great lover of the public eye, with much to lose but with courage and propriety to say it…and then…ah well…there’s ‘our’ Pres.

  23. M.A MBIZA M.A MBIZA 16 December 2010

    These elitists are something.Just because they don’t like J.Z they think they must have a field day riduculing him.He must just take it on the chin and grin,because he is uneducated like them.Just because he did not go to Rhodes or Wits does not mean he is stupid.It was not his choice not to be educated.I say he must go after each and everyone of them who do not see a president in him but a corrupt rapist.He most probably hsa advisors who would have told him that he was going to loose the case,but they did not not.Give the guy some credit.Let Zapiro and Avusa go to court and defend themselves.Don’t try to intimidate the president in the name of ‘freedom of the press’.That has its limit also.You can’t about insulting people and claim that you are excersing your right to ‘freedom of the press’.The the person you are insulting should also have a rigth to defend themself.In any case Zapiro does not own the copyrigth to freedom of the press.

  24. MLH MLH 16 December 2010

    The point was questioned in conversation this evening: who pays for the court case if Zuma loses? Is this a private case? I’d love to know where financial responsibilities actually fall on this. I can’t believe Zuma would regurgitate the nonsense if not advised he has a case. Where is Mike Trapido when I need him…?

  25. Shaman Sans Frontieres Shaman Sans Frontieres 17 December 2010

    Ta Jennifer Thorpe. Have you seen the meaning of isiZuma and ukuZuma in the standard dictionary of isiXhosa (Fort Hare University Press)? Remarkable stuff.

  26. Msendi Msendi 17 December 2010

    Who said JZ will use taxpayers money to exercise his right. That cartoon is more than an insult. Whether you hate or you like the guy does’nt make a difference, he was insulted and the people responsible for the insult must pay.

  27. Peter L Peter L 17 December 2010

    Your argument would perhaops hold some water if the Prez was using HIS OWN own money to pursue this arguably vexacious and frivolous action that has a low probability of success.

    He is not using his own money – despite being fabulously wealthy compared to 99% of South Africans, he is using taxpayers money – many would argue WASTING taxpayers money that could be better spent in service delivery.

    If this action does go ahead, I just pray that the Prez is called upon to give evidence and can thus be subjected to cross examination.

  28. Gumrol Gumrol 17 December 2010

    Its funny how Zapiro was so outspoken against Apartheid and in that regime he also faced k*k. I wonder if Zuma even knew who Zapiro was back then. Zuma (and all SA leaders post Madiba) need to learn how to take criticism – this is a democracy, the media and citizens are allowed and WELCOME to criticise.

  29. Nkoatse Mashamaite Nkoatse Mashamaite 17 December 2010

    Jennifer just are you and others do you refer to as the rape of justice.
    Courts have been created so as to prevent self justice. For the President to go the court route is a show of confidence he has on the judiciary. That cannot be rape of justice.
    The damage of Zapiro’s catoon continues today after two years. The catoon was never a factual reflection of the truth, it still is not the reflection of the truth.
    It does not matter what the HRC ruled on the catoon; for Zuma to succeeed in his defamation case he only need to show that the catoon was not reflective of facts.
    Stop believing anything about the President is wrong. Zapiro has a responsibility to make catoons with good taste, depicting facts, the alleged catoon did no such.

  30. Hlabirwa Hlabirwa 17 December 2010

    Interesting comment was made the other day regarding the condemnation of Wikileaks founder persecution in UK. Of note is the silince from the usuall haulers on the matter of freedom of speech – I was stunned to note that this freedom does have limits afterall!
    Now if JZ wants to sue, let him go ahead – concerned Tax payers must also sue him forwaisting public funds if they feel that is what he is doing! Why don’t they solicit the service of one Advocate P Hoffman to sue JZ and the presidency for waisting “TAXES”?
    Lawyers this is your chance to make a windfall off the taxpayers backs – GO FOR IT!

  31. Yanga Yanga 17 December 2010

    This is so true Jen….. Thamie, there is no defence of dignity here…. this man we call him Mr President is not doing anything more than making worthless news and ofcourse squandering our hard earned money. Lets face it, Zapiro reflected the situation of SA as it was and still is…. if Zuma couldnt handle it, well too bad for him. he should see all of this from our perspetive and Zapiro painted the picture for him and his likes….

  32. Thamie_Durban Thamie_Durban 17 December 2010

    @Peter L
    If was a herdboy at Inkandla, Zapiro would not have done that cartoon! The cartoon is in the context of his position as Pres and human being.

  33. Thamie_Durban Thamie_Durban 17 December 2010

    Unfortunately Jen, you and I, are not part of the SA justice system. Let us leave this matter to them! I trust Zapiro also to trusts the Justice system, after all his cartoon was in the defence of the same system.

  34. M.A MBIZA M.A MBIZA 17 December 2010

    People are jumping to dangerous conclusions here.When Zapiro drew that offensive cartoon Zuma was NOT yet ELECTED president of the country.It therefore follows that he CANNOT use state resources to litigate this matter. I repeat what i said earlier, Zuma has educated people around him.They would have told him not to pursue this matter if he did not have a case to make.To claim that he is abusing the justice is a bit rich.Does this mean that only certain people have the privilege to sue,and not others.We black people know that the justice system in this country is heavily skewed towards white people.Even if people like Jen will not admit.The cartoon was very offensive and in bad taste.Somebody must pay even if it is a token amount.The fact of the matter is that many people where disappoined when J.Z beat that other educated guy in Polokwane.But WE the people on the ground voted for him.MAJORITY RULES.THAT’S DEMOCRACY.Or is not?

  35. La Quebecoise La Quebecoise 17 December 2010

    I just love these dialogues.

    The African sounding names all seem to say; He’s our president, you must be respectful, and if not, he can sue you. The White sounding names all seem to say; ‘he’s a scoundrel”; point it out for everyone to see, and shame him into good behaviour.”

    He’s the President, he can do what he likes: He’s the President, he must lead by example.

    It’s really difficult to see what the objective can be when you have 2 such diametrically opposing points of view; and if you have no objective, then how can you proceed to a solution.

  36. M.A MBIZA M.A MBIZA 18 December 2010

    T0 La Quebecoise
    This just proves the saying that ‘oil and water do not’ mix.There are certain people in this world who hold the view that what is good and acceptable is only that which has been done by the white person. ANYTHING that is in black hands is corrupt and evil.Zapiro would never depict and riducule a white president like he is doing to OUR president.The press and one tv station will shower praises to the white lady who runs that last white colony in the Afican continent.They see her as their messiah.She can do nothing wrong in their eyes.To some of us she is nothing but the perpetrator of the blackman’s humiliation in the land of his forefathers.I’m yet to see a cartoon prtraying her as such.But then,hey,we do not own the means of disseminating the bile that is being dished out by these media houses,in the name of the ‘freedom of the speech’.If these people feel they want to carry on insulting OUR ELECTED leaders,and THEIR COURTS do not call them to order,then by all means the proposed Media Tribunal is the way to go to enforce accountability.

  37. Peter L Peter L 18 December 2010

    @La Quebecoise
    The two camps that you describe- one camp supporting the President’s right to sue – even if that involves using taxcpayers money – on the basis that he is our President, leader etc, and should not be insulted – freedom of the preess is not absolute. This view we might call the “traditional african view” for want of a better description.

    The other view, which we might call the “traditional western view” empathises with Jennifer’s piece, regards leaders and politicians as fair game for satire, lampooning etc

    Here lies the rub, and what I would describe as a cultural chasm / divide – each “side” just does not get the other side’s world view.

    Is there a Pedi word for satire?

    My question to those supporting Zuma’s defamation action is – are you also opposed to the cartoons lampooning Helen “loo with a view / “godzille” Zille, or the ongoing self-destruction of Lekota and Shilowa, or the arguable subjugation of Palestinians by Netanyahu? (if not, the word Hypocrite…)

    How about the daily vicious attacks on George Bush when he was in power?

    Or are these all “OK”?

    I would argue that blind / excessive trust of Politicians and “leaders” is a very bad and dangerous thing – healthy cynicism, disrepect and questioning of those in powewr is to be encouraged.

    History is littered with the tragic results of a docile populace that is subjugated by their leaders:

    20 plus million deceased Russians under joseph Stalin.
    3 Million plus cambodians under Pol Pot.

  38. King M King M 18 December 2010

    …..Zuma & Zapiro ?? what’s new

  39. Neil Parker Neil Parker 18 December 2010

    @Peter L

    Couldn’t have put it better!


    Please just quit the ‘oil and water’ analogies. I think there are a fair number of people of all races who support Zapiro’s depictions. Lampooning of politicians by cartoonists is part of a NORMAL democracy such as we are doing our best to establish in our rainbow nation. Peter has pointed out there are equally ‘damaging’ cartoons of both Helen Zille and George Bush neither of whom care at all because it won’t make an iota of difference to their voter base – same goes for JZ if he’d just do us all a favour and worry about more important things.

    I think you need to get away from the eternal ‘wounded black nation’ syndrome and consequent ‘elitist white’ counter camp. If you think there aren’t enough cartoons lampooning Zille, then get off your rear end and create them – or find someone who can. Why should that be exclusively Zapiro’s job – unless you’re in a ‘camp’ that assumes all cartoonists are white and wicked?

  40. Peter L Peter L 18 December 2010

    Your words seem to polssily indicate a deeply bitter, hurt, frustrated and uninformed person.

    I will focus on just one of the many fallacies and misconceptions in your diatribe, by means of illustration:

    You state that “Zapiro would never depict and riducule a white president like he is doing to OUR president.”

    For your information, Zapiro (Jonathon Shapiro)was fervently anti-apartheid during the period preceeding our democratic freedom, and very frequently – almost daily, ridiculed the leaders of the former regime – De Klerk, Botha et al.

    Please do not take my word for it – do your own research.
    His cartoons at that time were featured in the Sowetan, Weekly Mail and a few other publications.

    OK – now ask yourself – if I can be so wrong and misinformed / have such a warped perception on that score, is it possible that some of my other views are not supported by the facts?

  41. Ag Shame Ag Shame 20 December 2010

    The fact of the matter is that JZ is way out of his depth. he may be the ANC’s leader, but he cannot run a country. Time spent in the media lashing out at the “big bad media” is a great floatation device and helps keep a blinkered voter base in his corner. Unfortunately, if JZ was white, and a CEO in the private sector, he would have been sent packing long ago.

  42. Thomas Thomas 20 December 2010

    I still cannot understand why South Africa is run by values that the majority don’t believe. We understand the lampooning of the President, but the rape cartoon went over the top. Now we have a situation where mostly white people feel that there was no connection between the rape case and the cartoon. I also see the same reflex from white people about States money, tax monies etc. Can anyone please state where in the articles that we have read is the use of tax payers’ monies stated? The cartoon in the first place was defended as saying that justice needed protection. Why then can’t the president use the justice system to get redress where he feels he deserves? Or is justice only for the Agliotti’s and the Browns?

  43. Thamie_Durban Thamie_Durban 20 December 2010

    @Peter L
    The president is not suing because he has been lampooned by Zapiro. He has been doing the shower cartoons for a while without the Pres suing. He is suing because of one cartoon that seems to cross all boundaries of common decency.

  44. Thomas Thomas 20 December 2010

    Wasn’t PW Botha known as the “Groot Krokodil”? So where is the ridiculing and where is the insult?

    Zapiro unfortunately in the cartoon seems to agree with the racist labelling of blacks as rapists. The Nats raped justice: can you go through his works and come up with one where he showed them raping justice?

  45. M.A MBIZA M.A MBIZA 20 December 2010

    @Neil Parker,peter L,Ag Shame,Lenno.
    Bitter,yes,hurt,yes,frustrated,yes.Uinformed,no.Me and the other blacks that i live with cannot pretend that we come from a better past.We have been ‘done-in’ at Kempton Park.And to rub salt onto our wounds,we are expected to accept the perpetual insults from guys like Zapiro.You can try to justify it as much as you like,THAT cartoon was in bad taste.The patronising habits from a white man is always the defense of the of the indefensible.I’n not saying that the president is a saint.We elected him in POLOKWANE while we knew his weaknesses.There were other people we could have elected,but we did not.We are most probably going to elect him AGAIN in 2012.AS Somebody has already said in these comments,he is the president and he is black.There’s nothing you can do about it.

  46. eugene eugene 25 December 2010

    I think the cartoon was sick & disgusting, which only belonged in a porn magazine.Imagine a similar cartoon with Helen Zille being ‘symbolically’ raped by an opposition politician, surely you could not defend such a cartoon. So what makes the Zuma cartoon different?

    Sounds to me people defending the cartoon are a bloc of Zuma haters who are voicing their emotions rather than plain logical reasoning. Zuma has the right to sue Zapiro & let the courts decide

  47. ian shaw ian shaw 1 January 2011

    MBiza: Democracy does indeed permit you to vote for evil, corrupt, unscrupulous, self-serving, hypocritical, criminal, dishonest, incompetent and arrogant people. If this is your choice and your only criteria is that being black vindicates them, then you are just as responsible for the failures of our countrty than they are.
    I am not a DA supporter, but if the lady of the Western Cape whom you called the last colonial vestige of white power, or something like that, can run an efficient and clean government, perhaps she can in spite of being white. I happen to know some talented, educated and successful blacks but unfortunately they wish to stay away from politics and let your chosen nominees prevail.

  48. M.A MBIZA M.A MBIZA 1 January 2011

    IAN SHAW:The problem with you guys is you are too patronising.We know for a fact that no white leader will ever do anything good for a black man over his or her white compatriots.Otherwise they would done it for the past 300 or so years that they have been ruling this country.Scratch a little bit deeper any white person’s skin,you will find a die-hard ‘verkrampte’.Remember Andries Treunicht or something like that.He once said him and his white ‘volk’ would rather die poor but he should remain pure white,rather than to be intergrated.The reverse is also true of the black man in South Africa today.We would rather live under this ‘corrupt and dishonest’ government than to live under a ‘clean and efficient’ white government.We have been there and we know how how it is.A leopard never changes its spots.That is why we will keep on returning this black,’corrupt and dishonest’government to power over and over again with an ever larger majority.We will make sure that a white man never rules this country,ever.That is a fact of life here in S.A.And there is nothing you and your folks can do about it.

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