Lifestyle & Belief

South Africa: President Jacob Zuma angry about being portrayed as a penis in new political cartoon


The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, looks on during the opening plenary, called Leaders Dialogue on Climate Change, of the seventh annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 20, 2011, in New York City.


Daniel Berehulak

South Africa's government is angry about a new political cartoon that depicts South African President Jacob Zuma as a penis, BBC News reported. The cartoon also features a poem that refers to Zuma as a "dick."

This isn't the first time that an artist has used male reproductive organs to insult Zuma. Back in May, a South African art gallery stirred controversy when it displayed a painting of Zuma with his genitals hanging out. Weeks after South Africa's government  ordered the painting taken down, Zuma has now found himself in a new battle. This time, it's with Jonathan Shapiro, the prominent artist at the Mail & Guardian newspaper who drew the penis cartoon, the BBC said. Shapiro and Zuma have a rocky history: in 2008, Shapiro depicted Zuma raping a woman in another political cartoon.  

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"All South Africans share our disgust," the African National Congress said of the latest cartoon in a statement, Reuters reported. The ANC also asked for Shapiro, who has won many awards, and the newspaper to apologize.

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian editor has given mixed messages about his support for the artist: "It's quite possible that it is not a great cartoon," he told Talk Radio 702.

But what does the cartoon even mean? That's also up for debate. Zuma's supporters say the cartoon is a racist attempt to embarrass Zuma, who is black, in a nation still suffering from the aftermath of apartheid, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Zuma's critics say that the images are merely ridiculing his openly polygamist lifestyle, as he has four wives and more than 20 children. 

Shapiro, the artist, told iAfrica that the cartoon is a "serious commentary about a seriously flawed, hypocritical leader."