YCL calls on SAHRC to investigate Zapiro cartoon

Statement issued by National Secretary Buti Manamela September 11 2008

Open Letter to the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Jody Kollapen: In the interests of entrenching human rights - Investigate Zapiro's cartoon!

1. As concerned citizens and activists for freedom of expression, we address this open letter to you relating to the defamatory and offensive cartoon by cartoonist Zapiro which appeared in the Sunday Times, Sunday 07 September 2008.

2. The cartoon by Zapiro, which depicts the President of the ANC, Cde Jacob Zuma as a rapist, is distasteful, deplorable and boarders on defamation of character. It is, in our view, an abuse of press freedom by Zapiro.

3. This cartoon, drawn under the pretext of 'press expression', undermines the fundamental human rights to dignity guaranteed in the Constitution. In a country where the scourge of women abuse and rape in particular is rampant, the careless and insensitive use of the barrel of the pen to depict our leaders as rapists is reckless and uncalled for.

4. We humbly request that the Human Rights Commission [HRC] urgently considers whether the cartoon was in any way injuring the person and rights of the President of the African National Congress [ANC], Cde Jacob Zuma.

5. We believe that the HRC has a duty and responsibility to protect our citizens, particularly those whose rights have been eroded or abused. In keeping with its constitutional obligations, the HRC should be vigilant to ensure that no one is allowed to trample on the rights of others.

6. Cde Zuma's human rights have been abused for more than seven years, in the course of the investigation against him, without any form of intervention or condemnation by the institutions entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of our people. In our view, this abuse or violation of his human rights is comparable with the abuse inflicted on our people by the racist apartheid regime.

7. If the HRC fails to decisively and genuinely to act on this matter, it will reinforce public perception that the Commission is not impartial on issues relating to the ANC President.

8. It will also give credence to our belief that the HRC is being coerced or influenced to selectively speak on human rights issues for narrow and factional political agendas.

9. These views should not be misconstrued political blackmail as it is evident that Cde Zuma has been subjected to the worse forms of human rights abuse amid silence from the HRC.

10. We urge you to pursue this matter with the same vigour and excitement as the 'shoot to kill' statements by our esteemed leaders Cde Julius Malema and Zwelinzima Vavi respectively.

11. We are anticipating a favourable response to our request in the interests of defending the basic human rights of our citizens and our constitutional democracy.

Statement issued by Buti Manamela, National Secretary, Young Communist League September 11 2008