Jacob Zuma rape cartoon causes outrage in South Africa
South Africa is embroiled in a furious row over press freedom, after one of the country's top cartoonists depicted Jacob Zuma, the ANC leader and probable next president, undoing his trousers and about to rape a woman labelled "justice system".
The cartoon shows four of his key supporters holding her down, with Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary-general, telling him "Go for it, boss!"
Mr Zuma was acquitted of raping the HIV- positive daughter of a family friend in 2006, but while he insisted the sex was consensual, he told the court he did not use a condom and showered afterwards to prevent transmission of the virus – hence the shower nozzle protruding from the back of his skull in the image.
Now Mr Zuma is facing corruption allegations in connection with a multi-billion-pound arms deal and while he denies all claims of wrongdoing, he insists that he wants his day in court.
Given the ANC's electoral dominance, the case is effectively the only thing standing between him and the state presidency at elections next year, and his backers say he is only making use of his constitutional rights, while accusing the authorities of selective prosecution amid factional struggles within the ruling party.
But the proceedings have raised political tensions in South Africa to fever pitch, with Mr Mantashe describing judges as "counter-revolutionary" and Julius Malema, the ANC youth league president – also portrayed in the cartoon – declaring his willingness to "kill for Zuma".
After the cartoon by Zapiro appeared in Johannesburg's Sunday Times, the ANC and its allies issued a statement saying it was "distasteful and borders on defamation of character".
Despite its large parliamentary majority, the ANC is growing increasingly sensitive to public criticism ahead of the polls, and they continued: "We further view this as a direct assault on the ANC and Alliance membership and its leadership.
"The cartoonist Zapiro has gone off the mark and he needs to be reminded of the basic tenets of press freedom for which insult and defamation are not counted amongst them." Zapiro – real name Jonathan Shapiro – defended himself, telling South African radio: "I am angry at them, I am outraged at what Jacob Zuma is trying to do to the justice system and constitutional principles.
"The central message is that Zuma is about to, poised to, trying to rape justice system with the help and complicity of his political allies."
An editorial in the Sunday Times's sister paper, The Times, added: "The alliance has openly attacked the judiciary, including our highest court, and has announced national strikes and other protests should Zuma's corruption trial proceed.
"Their willingness to 'kill for Zuma', to strike for Zuma and to mortgage our democracy for Zuma is frightening. Zuma might be a bit of a joke, but what's being done in his name is definitely not funny."
Opinion on newspaper website pages was divided. "Finally, someone who has the courage, conviction and moral fibre to say what the quiet majority has not," wrote David Graham on the Mail and Guardian site.
"Zapiro for president!" another wrote.
But in a message to Mr Zuma, one of his fans wrote: "You have been through a lot in your life, they will call you names, portray you in a negative way but we are with you, we won't stop supporting and defending you, you are one of us."
P.O. Box 3867
Skype ID : Kayisa66