Jacob Zuma sues Sunday Times for 'justice rape' cartoon

Image caption,
Jacob Zuma was sworn in as president in May 2009

South African President Jacob Zuma is suing a cartoonist and a newspaper for a controversial drawing of him published two years ago.

In the Sunday Times cartoon, Jonathan Shapiro depicted Mr Zuma - who at the time had yet to become president - about to rape the justice system.

It appeared when Mr Zuma was facing a corruption trial, later dismissed, and after he had been acquitted of rape.

Mr Shapiro has said he will not be intimidated.

The cartoonist, known as "Zapiro", told South Africa's Times paper that he fully stood by the cartoon and the views it expressed.

It showed a woman, wearing a sash with the words "Justice System", being pinned down by four figures.

They represented the governing African National Congress (ANC), the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and trade union organisation Cosatu.

"Go for it, Boss!" they say to Mr Zuma, shown unbuckling his belt.

Mr Zuma's lawyers are demanding damages of $731,000 (£460,000).

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says at the time it was published, the cartoon caused a stir and threats of legal action.

But it is only now that Mr Zuma, who became president in May 2009, is proceeding with the case against Mr Shapiro, Avusa - the media group that owns the Sunday Times - and former editor Mondli Makhanya.

In the court papers, Mr Zuma said the cartoon, published on 7 September 2008, had damaged his reputation, was degrading and left him feeling humiliated.

Lawyers for the Sunday Times say they are surprised by the timing of the lawsuit.

"I think the president has been badly advised. All he and his legal team are going to do is drag this case back into the public eye," lawyer Eric van der Berg is quoted in the paper as saying.

Our correspondent says it comes amid growing pressure within the ANC to clamp down on media freedom with tough new laws and a controversial media repeals tribunal.

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