Jonathan Shapiro – better known as cartoonist Zapiro – is at it again with a new book, titled WTF: Capturing Zuma – A Cartoonist’s Tale.
It comprises a collection of more than 400 cartoons recording the era of Jacob Zuma’s presidency.
It is also Zapiro’s personal account of this hair-raising period, which included him being slapped with two lawsuits from Zuma, one of them for his Lady Justice cartoon.
The book serves as more than a powerful record of our recent history, says Zapiro. It has an underlying message for readers.
“I am moving away from Zuma, but I will be keeping the shower because it remains an ongoing symbol of the Zuma faction and whoever is connected to it,” he said.
Zapiro’s cartoon dealing with the fallout of Brett Murray’s infamous artwork, The Spear.
“My lawyer and I had to sit down and try to come up with interesting ways of letting the message out. The subheading explains my involvement as a cartoonist in ‘capturing’ Zuma. The capturing simply explains state capture and how Zuma finally got captured by means of being caught.”
Which is his favourite one?
“Among all the Zuma cartoons I have done, I must say the Rape of Justice is one of my favourites because it was the strongest way I could join the critique of Zuma and the ANC in trying to get the corruption charges against him dropped,” he said.
“But if you ask me if I learnt anything from the controversy, I don’t know. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The infamous Rape of Justice cartoon
Zuma began legal action against Zapiro over that cartoon, but later dropped the suit.
The satirical connection that Zapiro makes between Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and Zuma in some of his cartoons has been ongoing, and Malema did play a role in bringing Zuma to justice.
“Malema has been a kingmaker and a kingbreaker. He is a very interesting and fascinating character, but there is nothing interesting to do on him yet,” he said.
“I don’t think I can pinpoint Malema, but I believe he played a big role in getting the Nkandla issue in Parliament. I think that Malema is just scrambling around at the moment.”
Moving from his stock representation of the shower head, associated with Zuma to the way in which he characterises President Cyril Ramaphosa, it is clear that the cartoonist is taking a more valiant approach.
At least four of his recent works depict Ramaphosa as a semi-heroic character from the recent record-breaking Marvel film Black Panther.
“As Ramaphosa came in, the movie had just come out, so the relevance in making a comical version of RamaPanther was necessary,” he explained.
Zapiro presents RamaPanther, a semi-hero trying to fix the country despite state inertia
“How I have depicted Ramaphosa as RamaPanther is not the same as the shower head. Ramaphosa is a democrat who has a good interest for the country. He just happens to have terrible forces in the ANC that are holding him back. He is sort of a hero that has a lot of fixing to do.
“Moving on with the cartoons, I will be focusing on the shower and the sentiments it holds, and how RamaPanther is trying to clean out the mess created by the shower.”
Zapiro feels that his role in society and political discourse is to help people understand the subjective aspect of politics.
“In a roundabout way, I would say I am one of the people in the media and in civil society who have been able to capture Zuma, of course giving credit to democratic South Africa; I am grateful that the country allows people to voice their opinions.”