CAPE TOWN and JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — For 20 years South African politicians have felt the sharp end of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro's drawing pen.

Better known as Zapiro, the political cartoonist has drawn images so trenchantly critical that he was jailed by the previous apartheid regime for allegedly promoting the then-banned African National Congress (ANC).

Now Shapiro, 50, is facing a lawsuit from South Africa's presidential frontrunner, Jacob Zuma, who alleges that Shapiro's cartoons have unfairly depicted him as a rapist and a buffoon.

Shapiro's cartoons regularly show Zuma with a showerhead attached to his head, a reference to Zuma's court testimony that he took a shower quickly after having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman in order to protect himself from infection.

Shapiro has created a television series with puppets based on his graphic designs of politicians, but the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation recently cancelled the show.

These developments prompted Shapiro to warn that he fears South Africa's protection of freedoms of the press and of expression are being restricted.

More GlobalPost dispatches from South Africa:

Zuma leads in South Africa's presidential race

Why young politicos matter in South Africa

"Big Love" takes center stage in South Africa

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