, CAPE TOWN, Oct 28 – South Africa President Jacob Zuma has dropped a legal battle over a cartoon showing him about to rape a blindfolded Lady Justice figure, the newspaper he was suing reported on Sunday.
The president withdrew his lawsuit against the Sunday Times and satirical cartoonist Zapiro, who had depicted Zuma in 2008 unbuckling his pants as his allies pinned the blindfolded woman to the ground and urged “Go for it, boss!”
The matter had been set to go to court in Johannesburg on Monday.
“President Zuma did the right thing in withdrawing the case. This bodes very well for media freedom. It is to be hoped that he swiftly withdraws his other 12 live cases against the media,” the newspaper’s lawyer Dario Milo said.
“This will send out an important signal that the president respects the right of the media to criticise his conduct.”
Zuma had filed a claim for five million rand ($580,000) for damage to his reputation and injury to his dignity two years after the cartoon was published.
Last week it was reported that had dropped his demands to compensation of 100,000 rand and an apology.
The cartoon was printed before Zuma became president and caused a massive uproar from his supporters at a time when he was fighting a lengthy graft battle. The charges were later withdrawn.
In 2006, he was found not guilty of raping an HIV positive family friend at his Johannesburg residence.
“This will send out an important signal that the president respects the right of the media to criticise his conduct”
“I have mixed feelings about it because I would have liked to go to court as I believe we would have won hands down,” Jonathan Shapiro, better known by his sign-off Zapiro, told the newspaper.
“This is a vindication of what I was saying in the cartoon and it’s a vindication of the Sunday Times for publishing it. Everything that the cartoon depicted, like Zuma bullying the justice system, has come true.”
The cartoonist sketched Zuma’s legal surrender in his weekly spot in the newspaper on Sunday.
Zuma was shown being held down with Zapiro and Lady Justice on each arm as the cartoonist asked “Are we done here?” while showing him a picture of the 2008 cartoon with a broken bat signalling the halted lawsuit.
Zuma’s lawyer said he would pay half of the newspaper’s legal costs, the Sunday Times said.