Zapiro defends the use of ‘rape’ metaphors

Cape Town –the latest ‘rape’ cartoon of satirical cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, or more commonly known Zapiro, has become a trending topic within the social media realm.

The controversial cartoon references Zapiro’s 2008 depiction of the rape of “Lady Justice”. In his most recent work published in The Daily Maverick “Lady Justice” is replaced with “Lady South Africa”, a woman wearing a colourful South African flag. She is pinned down by New Age editor Moegsien Williams, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and State Security Minister David Mahlobo. These characters are representative of ANN7 and the New Age, the “State Organs” and “Cronies Inc.”.

South African president Jacob Zuma hovers over the scene, with his back facing the woman as he zips up his trousers. He is illustrated as handing over the woman to Gupta brother, Atul Gupta while saying ”she’s all your’s, Boss!”.

Image by Zapiro in The Daily Maverick
Image by Zapiro in The Daily Maverick (


This depiction of a gang rape scene immediately sparked controversial backlash. South Africans took to Twitter to voice their opinions, making #Zapiro the trending topic within the Twitter-sphere. Many believe that Zapiro’s use of rape, as a theme to address the current state capture and recent cabinet reshuffle seemed “distasteful” and “insensitive”.

The cartoon followed a national shutdown on Friday, 7 April calling for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.

The satirists received both applause and criticism from the online community. Those opposed to his thematic use of rape in the illustration, have highlighted the severity of the issue, in relation to the most recent sexual assault and rape statistics reported to the SAPS. Kate Wilkinson, a senior researcher for Africa Check was one of the first Twitter users to respond.

Zapiro responded to News24 on Tuesday, stating that he felt it was necessary to use the metaphor to articulate the current political climate.

He said, “I really didn’t think I’d actually have to revisit the theme at all. It’s not as if I want to draw this sort of thing,”.

His response fuelled the online engagement, especially among female users, who claim that the cartoon perpetuates rape culture.

The satirist also received positive feedback from some quarters. These individuals voiced their approval online, claiming that his illustration is an accurate representation of the recent political affairs.

The metaphor has been a heavily debated topic within both journalistic and academic discussions. Zapiro, who is famed for creating controversial political commentary, told TMG Digital that his cartoon was meant to shock and evoke a sense of empathy within the audience.

“Do they empathise with any of the perpetrators holding the metaphorical person down, that is South Africa, or do they empathise with the metaphorical person?”





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