Zuma cartoon was justified - Zapiro

Zapiro said his controversial cartoon of President Jacob Zuma was justified at the time of publication.

Cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro, well known as Zapiro.

JOHANNESBURG - Political satirist Jonathan 'Zapiro' Shapiro on Monday said the 2008 image that landed him in hot water with President Jacob Zuma was defamatory, but completely justified.

On Saturday, Zuma's legal team withdrew the R100,000 lawsuit against Zapiro, saying they did not want to set a legal precedent that could restrict freedom of speech.

The controversial cartoon showed Zuma about to rape Lady Justice, with the help of ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj labelled the image "hurtful" and "defamatory", but said the president wanted to drop the case.

"The president has taken action. He acknowledged that he is hurt, but he said he wants to rise above his personal hurt."

However, Zapiro said the cartoon was justified and was reflective of the president's attitudes at the time of publication.

"It was at a time when Zuma and his allies were bullying and threatening the judiciary, in order to get corruption charges against him dropped, so he could become president."

Zapiro believed the Presidency dropped the charges to avoid negative publicity in the run up to the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung.

The defamation case was supposed to begin at the South Gauteng High Court on Monday.

Initially, Zuma wanted to sue Zapiro and the _Sunday Times _for R5 million.

The amount was reduced to R4 million, but recently brought down to only R100,000.

Zuma also wanted Zapiro to apologise.