PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s decision to sue the Sunday Times and its cartoonist, Zapiro, over a cartoon, sheds more light on his jaundiced understanding of press freedom. Zuma’s complaint is that the cartoon was “degrading” and left him feeling “humiliated” because it suggested he was about to rape a figure representing Lady Justice and that his image suffered.
The most immediate question is: exactly how did his reputation suffer? After the publication of this cartoon, Zuma went on to become president of South Africa, which suggests that his image was, if anything, rapidly on the rise in the eyes of his political peers and the public.
Whatever revulsion Zuma might have felt at the cartoon, the reading public knew it was a metaphor for how he dodged the day in court on corruption charges he had once ardently wished for, and not an actual depiction of rape.
Only the most determined and humourless political hack would fail to make the distinction between a cartoon metaphor and reality.
In Zuma’s mind — and in those of the ANC’s less enlightened cadres — the press must “respect” the president who, according tothis view, occupies some sort of special status in society, akin to that of an unelected, benign monarch.
Unfortunately for them, we live under a constitution where the president enjoys no such privileges. In our democracy, the president is a servant of the people, and he must be held to account for the performance of government.
Of course, the president can earn respect through his actions, but he can lose this respect just as quickly by failing to live up to the public’s expectations.
One thing is certain: respect cannot be earned by attempting to intimidate a cartoonist into producing flattering drawings through a string of vexatious lawsuits. If anything, the lawsuit degrades and humiliates Zuma, showing just how thin-skinned, humourless and image-conscious he is beneath his devil-may-care exterior.
What Zuma is asking the courts to do is to decide just how cutting satire should be before it is banned from publication.
Would a cartoon depicting Zuma twisting Lady Justice’s arm behind her back be acceptable? Would a slap across the cheek be going too far? Perhaps an image of Zuma and Lady Justice earnestly discussing his corruption case over steaming coffee would make the grade?
Zuma’s thin skin should not be sufficient grounds for threatening the freedom of expression. He has been driving the ruling party’s demands for a media tribunal, openly contradicting other senior party members who have attempted to shelve the idea.
And now, in what will amount to the most ludicrous action by a head of state since P W Botha ruled, he will go to court to whimper about a cartoonist.
He is a moron.
Our president doesn’t appear to understand the idea of public office. He is not allowed to sue in his capacity as president. If Zuma is suing in his private capacity, then he is definitely no longer in office. There is a statute of limitation governing parliamentary privilege. Zuma cannot claim that the cartoons offend his private persona. At least get the issues right. This is about parliamentary privilege.
These government thugs want to be seen almost as gods. You dare not disrespect them or you will face the consequiences.
It sure seems like you and others in the media have something to hide – the nervousness is starting to show.
The opportunity to interrogate Zuma at will on a host of subjects finally presents itself on a plate. Rather than savoring the moment the media has gone into “let’s protect ourselves” mode like a bunch of frightened rabbits – except perhaps, Zapiro, who’s displayed a bring-it-on approach.
Unless of course those in the media know something that the rest of us don’t, like maybe spreading stuff about Zuma which they know to be indefensible.
This should be one of the most welcome events in the brief history of our constitutional democracy.
Instead of being a bunch of sniveling moaners and silly cry babies, blow this thing into the open as the media have been clamouring for even before Zuma became president.
Show some balls instead of acting like silly, frightened wankers.