Readersforum's Blog

November 12, 2012

South African President Drops Defamation Suit Against Cartoonist

By Soyini Hamit

South African President Jacob Zuma announced last week that he was dropping his lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known by the pen-name Zapiro. Zuma brought the suit for defamation against Zapiro, along with Sunday Times publisher Avusa Media and editor Mondli Makhanya, for Zapiro’s cartoon “Lady Justice,” which depicts Zuma set to rape Lady Justice. The president’s office released a statement saying that they dropped the charges in order to avoid setting a legal precedent that would have a chilling effect on free speech in South Africa.Zuma filed the lawsuit in December 2008, after the Sunday Times published the cartoon. In the cartoon, Zuma stands with his pants undone while his political allies hold Lady Justice down and encourage him to “Go for it, Boss.” The cartoon was intended to represent Zuma’s abuse of the justice system. It also recalled the numerous sex scandals Zuma was involved in, including a 2006 trial for rape in which he was acquitted. Zuma felt that the image damaged his reputation and dignity.

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