Evolution of Democracy' in South Africa. From Hendrik Verwoerd, the architecht of apartheid to present day Jacob Zuma. With Jacob Zuma's decision to crush the latest strikes with force and the threatened legislation on press freedom, it appears that South Africa is moving backwards to the dark days of apartheid.
This Zapiro's cartoon is based on the well-known timeline picture 'evolution of man'
- Richard Hainebach
Born in Cape Town in 1958, Zapiro couldn’t imagine a career in cartooning, so he studied architecture at University of Cape Town.
Couldn’t imagine a career in architecture, so…>
The Evolution and Devolution of Democracy
COUNTER EVOLUTIONARY: ZAPIRO's 'Evolution and Devolution of Democracy in South Africa' features seven of the Republic's past presidents. Beginning with Apartheid architect HF Verwoerd, the cartoon demonstrates an evolutionary process towards the epitome of democracy (represented by Nelson Mandela), and then democracy's regress towards the Zuma presidency.
Interestingly, the narrative ignores the presidential term of Kgalema Motlanthe whose inclusion between the penultimate and ultimate figures would have necessitated a blip in the cartoon's symmetry. This exclusion is commonplace in cartoonists' presidential line-ups however, due to the temporary and ineffectual nature of Mothlanthe's term.
Less in dispute is the cartoon's contention that democracy is in the decline in post Mandela South Africa. What has made this cartoon so controversial is the depiction of black people as monkeys, or apes in this case. It was once and still is a common and racist device employed by cartoonists the world over, and the link or apparent link between black people and monkeys is therefore a very sensitive issue. Here - as he has done before - Zapiro probes those sensitivities. Is this depiction of blacks (and, in this case some whites too) gratuitous, or is it relevant given the context of the cartoon? Can a line be drawn between symbolism used as racist commentary and that used for fair comment?, the cartoonist asks of us.
The jury is out in heated debate. But that the cartoon's acceptability is being debated with due consideration to the important matters of racial depictions on the one hand, and freedom of speech on the other, signifies an evolutionary process in itself. Surely level heads will conclude that each such case must be measured by its own context and merits, and find that there is a space for strong cartoons such as this one which is clearly has no racist intent?
Despite all the criticism, Mail & Guardian readers voted this as their favourite Zapiro cartoon published during 2010. It also formed part of Zapiro's entry in the 10th annual Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Awards in which he was a finalist.
- John Curtis.