Zapiro concedes Abrahams, Zuma cartoon was a 'misstep'

The cartoonist was criticised for a cartoon which depicts Shaun Abrahams as a dancing monkey.

The political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, says his cartoon showing National Prosecuting Authority head Advocate Shaun Abrahams as a monkey has not worked in the way he wanted it to, and has admitted to making some missteps in what he describes as a racially charged atmosphere.

He's been strongly criticised for a cartoon published yesterday, that shows President Jacob Zuma playing an organ-grinder and Abrahams as a dancing monkey.

Earlier this year, it emerged estate agent Penny Sparrow had referred to black people as monkeys on Facebook.

Analyst Eusebius Mackaiser says Shapiro's cartoon feeds into racist tropes.

"The cartoon is not written or depicted for a society in pre-slavery, white homogenous, mid-west America. He knows his context; he prides himself on his anti-apartheid credentials that he cites regularly."

While Shapiro himself now appears to be conceding that this cartoon was wrong.

"What I thought I could do with that cartoon, I couldn't. Where I completely agree with him is the understanding of what that racist trope is. I hope that his defence of me as someone who is feeding a racist trope, unwittingly, is the better way of looking at it."

Mackaiser said the cartoon failed because people are discussing the depiction of Abrahams as a monkey, rather than talking about his actions at the NPA.


The cartoonist says while he does understand how his cartoon feeds into racist tropes, he is not coming from a racist perspective.

The caricature was after Abrahams announced the NPA would appeal the decision to reinstate the corruption charges against Zuma.

Shapiro says he accepts this cartoon didn't work in the way he wanted it to.

"In this racially charged situation, I think there are things were I have made a couple of missteps - I had to reassess, not how hard hitting I can be, but certain things that are just too difficult to explain in whatever way I want to explain them."

But Mackaiser says it displays racist tropes.

"It was instrumentally a bad analogy and it certainly was one which is susceptible to moral skewering in the context of anti-black racism."

He says judging the images is all about the context of the society in which they are published.