A cartoon posted by news service, EWN, on their website titled, “Congress of Clowns and the clowns who voted them in,” caused outrage across social media in South Africa on Wednesday.
The cartoon portrayed the newly appointed government ministers as clowns with big red clown’s noses. On the side, away from the ministers, stood a group of voters, all drawn in dark shadow (presumably to portray black voters) also depicted as clowns. The voters held up a board with the words, “We the poephols,” written on it.
The cartoon has been received as a racist portrayal of both voters and ministers and is considered to undermine both their intelligence and capabilities.
The African National Congress has been explicit with their feelings towards the cartoon, which they say undermines the voters and has a strong racialist undertone. “We view this in a serious light, given the resilience of racism in the South African discourse and the condescending attitude demonstrated by some elements in the media and in society,” ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said in a statement.
This statement from the spokesperson for the ANC Youth League, Bandile Masuku, however, does not seem to align with the ruling party’s supposed view with regards to racism. “Thus we appeal to the general public, young people in particular, to never listen, or take the likes of Curtis, Zapiro, and Helen Zille serious (sic),” said Masuku earlier today.
Helen Zille is neither a cartoonist (as far as public knowledge assumes) nor is the cartoon affiliated with the Democratic Alliance, which Zille leads.
The cartoon has caused a stir on South African social media, particularly Twitter, with people voicing their outrage on the apparent abuse of media freedom. “Such attitudes, particularly from the media, reinforce the view that some sections of the media misuse the freedom of expression to undermine the gains made thus far,” stated Zizi Kodwa.
An apology has been expressed by Primedia (of which Eye Witness News is a division) and the group has stated that the matter has been referred to their internal ombudsman, George Bizos. Keith Khoza, speaking on behalf of the ANC, explained that they are satisfied with the apology from both the writers and the news service and they are happy to leave it up to Primedia to deal with the issue internally.
Primedia also had to deal with a peaceful ANC protest outside of their Sandton offices earlier today, which consisted of around 50 ANC supporters. The ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, was amongst those protesting and was involved in a minor altercation with the police during the display.
The protest was to display the dissatisfaction of ANC voters who felt insulted by the cartoon and has since dispersed.