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 tried switching to Graphic Design and promptly got conscripted.

While in the army he refused to bear arms and became active in 1983 in the newly-formed United Democratic Front. His arrest under the Illegal Gatherings Act caused some consternation in the SADF and his being monitored by military intelligence while also participating in the End Conscription Campaign, and designing its logo.

His work as a cartoonist began in earnest with a wide range of political and progressive organisations.

When the newspaper South began in 1987, he became its editorial cartoonist. He was detained by security police in 1988 shortly before leaving on a Fulbright Scholarship to study media arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

New York was an eye-opening experience where he studied under comics masters Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.

He returned to South Africa in 1991 and with Story Circle produced educational comics including Roxy (Aids education), Tomorrow People (democracy education) and A Trolley Full of Rights (a child abuse prevention comic later used by UNICEF elsewhere in Africa).

He has been editorial cartoonist for the Mail & Guardian since 1994, the Sunday Times since 1998 and The Times since May 2009. Previously he was editorial cartoonist for Sowetan 1994 – 2005, for Cape Argus 1996 -1997, Cape Times, The Star, The Mercury, Pretoria News 2005 – 2008.

He has held solo cartoon exhibitions in New York, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dhaka, Sweden and many in South Africa. Has also exhibited in numerous group shows locally and internationally.

He attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland 2003-2006 as one of a group of invited cartoonists. He has been an invited participant and speaker in cartoon events in Cameroon, Botswana, Namibia, Australia, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and the USA. In South Africa he has been a presenter and run workshops for a wide variety of organisations and educational institutions.

Resulting from cartoons in 2006 and 2008 about President Jacob Zuma, he is currently being sued by Zuma for defamation in two cases amounting to R7 million.


ZAPIRO has published seventeen cartoon collections:

The Madiba Years (1996) The Hole Truth (1997) End Of Part One (1998) Call Mr Delivery (1999) The Devil Made Me Do It! (2000) The ANC Went in 4X4 (2001) Bushwhacked (2002) Dr Do-Little and the African Potato (2003) Long Walk to Free Time (2004) Is There a Spin Doctor In the House? (2005) Da Zuma code (2006) Take Two Veg and Call Me In the Morning (2007) Pirates of Polokwane (2008) Don’t Mess With the President’s Head (2009) Do You Know Who I Am?! (2010) The Last Sushi (2011) But Will It Stand Up In Court? (2012) VuvuzelaNation (with Mike Wills) (2013)

Also published large-format hardcover: The Mandela Files (2008)


In 2001 he became the first cartoonist to win a category prize in the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards.

In 2004 the University of Transkei (now incorporated into Walter Sisulu University) made him an Honorary Doctor of Literature and in 2008 Rhodes University made him an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

In 2005 the Prince Claus Fund of the Netherlands awarded him the Principal Prince Claus Award. He also received an Honorary Sunday Times Alan Paton Literary Award.

In 2006 he won the first Mondi Shanduka Journalist of the Year Award.

In 2007 the Cartoonists Rights Network (USA) awarded him their annual Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award and was awarded first prize in Berlin in the international Entwicklungspolitik cartoon competition on Africa.

In 2009 he won the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Press Freedom Award.

Other Awards:

The Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Award for Graphic Journalism (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008) and for Editorial Cartoons (2009) Vodacom Cartoonist of the Year Award (2006, 2009) SA Comedy award for Best Humorous Cartoon (2007, 2008) Communicator of the Year award (from Tshwane University of Technology’s dept. of PR and Business Communication, 2005) Women Demand Dignity White Ribbon Award (from mayor of Cape Town, 2007) Men’s Health Best Man award, Media category (2009) Handspring Award for Puppetry, Best Design (2010)

Cartoons by Zapiro

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