South Africa: Zapiro cartoon misses the mark

South Africa: Zapiro cartoon misses the mark

Date: April 18, 2017
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Johannesburg, 18 March: Zapiro is at it again. Yes, again because he had a similar cartoon in 2008. The popular cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) has revived his 2008 cartoon, just different players now.

Zapiro’s latest cartoon published in the Daily Maverick, shows two men and one woman pinning down a woman wearing a South African flag with the letters SA on her chest. One of the men is from New Age and ANN 7 a media house owned by the Gupta family and the other is David Mahlobo, Minister of State Security. In addition, seen pinning down the woman is Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development. President Jacob Zuma zips up his trousers seemingly “finished” with the woman. Zuma has a shower on his head (apparently in reference to the rape case where Zuma was accused and acquitted of raping an HIV+ woman, and him having said that he took a shower afterwards). He gives a turn to one of the Gupta brothers to go on with the rape.

Is this a true reflection of the state of the country or a misrepresentation of women and insensitive use of rape in imagery? Freedom of expression or poor taste?

This cartoon in particular is extremely controversial and problematic, with a wide spectrum of opinions from different social circles. Some believe it is the true situation of the country made in one statement. However, others see it as grossly insensitive and extremely hurtful to the thousands of women who have experienced rape in the country and in the world over.

Commenting on Twitter, users such as Kate Wilkinson, a researcher notes, “Zapiro’s cartoon is horrible. Rape is not a joke. Rape is not a comedic device. Rape is not a metaphor. It is brutal, degrading, traumatic.”

Pro Active Education Group denounced the cartoon saying, “We find this cartoon, shocking and disrespectful to women. It makes a farce out of the reality of what thousands of women experience in SA.”

Ashraf Garda a radio and television host also tweeted saying, “Hey #Zapiro you were on the mark to highlight the pillage of our country, but you were off the mark depicting it as a horrific gang rape.”

 Zapiro’s use of rape as a metaphor to describe the current socio-political climate of the country is in poor taste. How about we spare a thought for sexual violence survivors who might have similar images of their lived experiences replaying in their minds. How about we spare a thought for the dignity of women deprived of a better representation of themselves but shown powerless and vulnerable are.

This cartoon does not have a place in a country like South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the region. Just recently, the country was talking about taxi rapes happening in Johannesburg. People were calling for perpetrators to be held accountable because women rights are being violated and they continue to live in fear.

South Africa faces high levels of (GBV), which disproportionately disempower women and girls in the country both economically and socially. Studies carried out by Gender Links in four provinces of South Africa Western Cape, Gauteng Limpopo and Kwa Zulu Natal shows high rates of gender based violence. The survey highlights that one in four women have experienced rape in Gauteng.

A recent survey conducted by the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance on gender attitudes reveals that at 53% South Africa’s Gender Progress Score is low, despite a progressive Constitution. The survey reveals that a high proportion of women (37%) and men (44%) agree that if a woman wears a short skirt she is asking to be raped. With such attitudes prevalent is society, it is sad that the media can perpetrate gender blind attitudes through such a cartoon.

A News 24 report based on South African Police Services (SAPS) crime statistics indicates that “…between April and December 2016, 30 069 cases of rape were reported. While down from the previous period, it amounts to approximately 110 reported cases of rape per day.”

With this cartoon, the question on whether the media is part of the problem or the solution in addressing and ending GBV remains relevant. Indeed, it is imperative that the media remains free in undertaking their activities but no freedoms are absolute and with freedoms comes responsibility. Colleen Lowe Morna CEO of Gender Links notes, “we support freedom of the press but this is hurtful to women violated by powerful men…” This cartoon is an indication of the tension between media freedom and abuse of its right, in a way that perpetuates gender stereotypes.

The role of the media is to inform and educate however, there is not much education on GBV or the situation of the country that can be derived from this when such blatant stereotypes insensitive to women are perpetuated. This cartoon fosters a rape culture that justifies the patriarchal nature of our societies.

As Zapiro attempted to use shock value to draw people into the issues of the day by using rape he missed the mark as this became offensive. The  Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) concluded in their press statement on the issue saying the cartoon is indeed inappropriate. Zapiro could have stepped back and repackaged his ideas in a more sensitive manner.

Blog written by Tarisai Nyamweda Media Coordinator at Gender Links


One thought on “South Africa: Zapiro cartoon misses the mark”

chevy says:

as a young survivor of sexual violence i can testify that the mental strain is deadly- treated or not. 3 years after being assaulted and i have been institutionalized twice for severe mental illness and hospitalized repeatedly for attempts at taking my own life in the struggle of the trauma- we can not be ignored. we can not live in this society consumed by rape culture.

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