Africa

Jacob Zuma drops Sunday Times 'rape' cartoon case

  • 28 October 2012
  • From the section Africa
Jacob Zuma at EU-South Africa summit in Brussels - 18 September
The cartoon was published before Mr Zuma became president

South African President Jacob Zuma has given up a legal case against a local newspaper over a cartoon depicting him about to rape a female figure representing justice.

His office said it saw the cartoon, by the artist known as Zapiro, as an affront but wanted to avoid a precedent that could limit free speech.

The Sunday Times said the lawsuit over the cartoon was dropped along with all claims for an apology and damages.

The case was due in court on Monday.

President Zuma faces a re-election contest for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December.

Opponents have accused him of trying to muzzle the media.

Correspondents say that if the case had gone ahead it could have encouraged opponents in his own party who accuse him of bullying.

'Unforeseen consequences'

Mr Zuma's lawyers had been demanding damages of 5m rand ($578,000; £369,000) for the cartoon.

It was published in 2008 before he became president but the claim was only filed two years later.

Last week, Mr Zuma was reported to have reduced his claim to 100,000 rand, before withdrawing it altogether.

"After careful consideration and consultation with his legal team, President Zuma has taken a decision to withdraw his claim against the respondents, and pay a contribution to their costs," his office said in a statement.

"The president... would like to avoid setting a legal precedent that may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech, with the unforeseen consequences this may have on our media, public commentators and citizens," it added.

The cartoon showed a woman, wearing a sash with the words "Justice System", being pinned down by four figures.

They represented the ANC, the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and trade union organisation Cosatu.

"Go for it, Boss!" they say to Mr Zuma, shown unbuckling his belt.

The image appeared when Mr Zuma was facing a corruption trial, later dismissed, and after he had been acquitted of rape.

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