Zapiro on Zumas 20th Child

Date: May 31, 2010
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The four Zapiro cartoons examine recent scandals surrounding South African President Jacob Zuma, particularly with regards to Zuma’s fathering a child out of wedlock, and his generally questionable sexual behaviour. The cartoons also reference a statement Zuma made during his 2008 rape case that he knew the woman he allegedly raped was HIV+, but he “took a shower” afterwards. The image of the shower head has become a mainstay in Zapiro’s commentary on Zuma.

This article may be used in training to:
– Discuss the role of political satire in promoting debate and democracy
– Provide an example of media that does not take the “boys will be boys” attitude often attributed to male public figures’ sexual digressions
– Provoke discussion around gender imbalances in politics i.e man who sleeps around can still become president, whereas a woman with the same sexual scandals would likely not.

Articles Analysed:
– “Luke, I could be your father,” Sunday Times, 14 February 2010
– “State of the Nation,” Sunday Times, 7 February 2010
– “Baby shower,” Mail and Guardian, 4 February 2010
– “Long ***k to freedom,” Mail and Guardian, 11 February 2010

Trainer’s notes:
“Luke, I could be your father” and “Baby Shower” both directly reference the most recent scandal surrounding the President. After a story leaked that he fathered a child out of wedlock, Zuma publicly admitted to sleeping with the daughter of FIFA Local Organising Committee Chairman Ivan Khoza. This comes after Zuma appealed to the international community to view his polygamy (he currently has four wives) as a part of African culture.

Zuma is said to now have 20 children, and indeed, “baby shower” features 20 babies falling from the sky, all with the signature shower head. “Luke, I could be your father” depicts Zuma as Darth Vader pointing out the entire cast of the Star Wars film series as his potential children.

On World AIDS Day, Zuma emphasised the importance of taking responsibility for one’s sexual practices, including using condoms consistently and correctly, and claimed that government was ready to play a leadership role. It is clear from Zapiro’s cartoons, however, that he is making a mockery of his promises. What kind of example does a ‘leader’ like Zuma set for the country? It seems that he feels he can behave in any manner he chooses, say sorry, and simply be forgiven.

“State of the Nation” and “Long ***k to freedom” emphasise this point. The former cartoon features Zuma giving his State of the Nation address. In this case, the shower head has grown to gigantic proportions, and looks poised to wash out the entire House. Spectators appear either angry or shocked, and some are openly laughing at the President. Zuma appears to be sweating. The cartoon could be interpreted in several ways. The enormous shower head could be seen as a ‘white elephant’ in the room – an embarrassment to the nation that no one wants to talk about, but that makes almost anything the President says seem trite and false. It could also be interpreted as a statement that perhaps Zuma believes that something as simple as a little water can solve the nation’s problems.

“Long ***k to freedom” pictures Nelson Mandela at the 20th anniversary of his release from prison. He carries his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in one hand. Spectators in the background hold signs praising Madiba. Beside him is a tiny Zuma holding up his own book, titled Long ***k to Freedom. Again, the cartoon appears to question Zuma’s leadership, and indeed the legacy he will leave in South Africa. While Madiba left the nation with democracy and non-racialism, Zuma will leave it with ignorance, promiscuity, and a penchant for admitting fault only when undeniably caught out.

In all of the cartoons, Zapiro takes Zuma to task for his behaviour. Very often, media shrugs off or puts aside male politicians’ sexual indiscretions. The attitude seems to be that ‘boys will be boys’, and you can’t expect a man to: a) be faithful, b) not have a sexual appetite, or c) not indulge in a little off-limits hanky-panky now and then. For male public figures, affairs and other sexual digressions are easily and quickly forgiven.

For women, however, the situation is very often different. Media and opposition often seem to look specifically for sexual scandals to use against female politicians and public figures. While people will shake their heads at a man’s affair, but laugh about it later and still vote him in, a woman will receive harsh criticism and often be ostracised by the public.

Laughter caused by these cartoons, however, is not forgiving. While Zapiro does satirise Zuma’s behaviour, he clearly does not excuse it.

Discussion questions:
– There has been a lot of debate around what Zuma’s behaviour means for his ability to lead a nation, with some even calling for the President to step down. Do you think a public figure’s personal life has an impact on his or her leadership ability? Take into consideration public perception and ‘leading by example.’
– Why do you think that male public figures are often afforded more leeway than female public figures when it comes to sexual indiscretions? To put it another way, how would you feel about a female leader who was married five times, had 20 children, and more than one high profile affair? Why does this situation seem more acceptable for a man?
– What role do you think political cartoons play in a democratic society?

Training exercises:
– Compare a number of political cartoons and identify features that make them effective, for example pop culture references, recognisable symbols (like Zuma’s shower head), puns or plays on words. Create your own cartoon to satirise a current issue in your country.
– Hold a debate around whether leader’s private lives should be a factor in evaluating their public roles.

Links to other training resources:

Picture our Lives, Gender and Images in Southern Africa, Chapter three: Sex, Gender and Stereotypes

Download : 10733_zapiro_09feb10stateofnation.gif
Download : 10734_zapiro_12feb10madiba.gif
Download : 10735_zapiro_05feb10babyshower.gif

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