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Cartoonist receives death threats, faces possible legal action over controversial cartoon

(CRNI/IFEX) - The following is a CRNI press release:

CRNI learned on September 16 that South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (aka: Zapiro) is once again under a legal threat from ANC presidential candidate Jacob Zuma. Further, threats are being made on his life by angry supports from the ANC party.

A cartoon that ran in the 7 September issue of the Sunday Times depicted Mr. Zuma (the ANC party's apparent presidential candidate for the 2009 elections) about to rape Justice in South Africa. In the cartoon, Justice is being held down by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and the secretaries general of the ANC, SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions - Gwede Mantashe, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi. The organizations are tri-partite alliance members.

A number of ANC supporters assert that the cartoon is insulting to their leader Mr. Zuma. While most of this criticism constitutes a healthy dialogue in the press, there is a video clip in which an ANC official warns that action must be taken against Shapiro ( see ) In this clip, Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth League, says, ". . . there must be an action against Zapiro" and "[we] will never allow a situation in which Zapiro is untouchable in South Africa." He further says Zapiro practices racist journalism.

Both Mr. Shapiro and his editor Mondi Makhanya are under unprecedented pressure, and the case is quickly becoming a test of Zuma's intentions for freedom of the press under any future regime he may head. There will be a 400-member general election of the National Assembly in 2009. The members of the General Assembly will then elect the president.

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