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Political cartoonist, Jonathon “Zapiro” Shapiro, was a guest speaker at an UCT Alumni event on Tuesday, October 10.

Despite his court case with President Jacob Zuma set for October 25th, Zapiro presented many of his controversial cartoons to an audience of approximately 400 UCT alumni members.

Zapiro is a former UCT student who initially studied architecture, but later switched to graphic design. “I always wanted to be a cartoonist…but many don’t see it as a possibility,” he explained.

With a variety of his cartoons displayed on the screen in Jameson Hall, Zapiro described the sensation of portraying reality in metaphorical annotations. That is with the “magic of cartoons…anything can happen. You are the master of the page and that is what I love about it”.

Although Zapiro’s cartoons are not meant to be interpreted literally, there is still the fear of audiences taking offence to societal issues he ridicules.

His cartoons have faced numerous criticisms from South African presidents, both past and present. Zapiro’s first cartoon was published during the 1980s, when President Pieter Willem Botha declared a State of Emergency in South Africa.

The cartoon depicted Botha with overly-sized lips and with his finger as a gun. “The violence is from the state’s finger…so it becomes the smoking gun,” Zapiro explains.

Over recent years, President Zuma has laid claims of defamation of character against a number of Zapiro’s cartoons. President Zuma stated that the depictions were ruining his reputation as the Head of State, due to the fact that he was being represented as a rapist with a shower head glued to his head.

Zapiro had a confident response to the lawsuit posed against him, stating that President Zuma “is making me into something that I wouldn’t want to be, so let him do it”.

In spite of this, Zapiro remains hopeful for South Africa’s future but does feel that the ANC is abusing its majority of seats in parliament. South Africa does have “some strong institutions but parliament is on the back foot,” he explains.

When Zapiro ridiculed former president Nelson Mandela in his cartoons, Zapiro argues how Mandela’s response was not one of anger or resentment. Zapiro said that Mandela realizes the need for criticism and that he wishes we could see that more from our current leadership.


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