South African President Jacob Zuma has withdrawn his lawsuit against Jonathan Shapiro (AKA Zapiro) ending a four year case wherein Zuma alleged that a cartoon depicting him preparing to rape Lady Justice was defamation and impaired his dignity.
Zuma contends that dropping the suit avoids setting a negative precedent:
“The president… would like to avoid setting a legal precedent that may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech, with the unforeseen consequences this may have on our media, public commentators and citizens,” his spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement on Sunday.
The Mail and Guardian notes that Zuma still has 12 other cases against the media in the courts.
Business Day Live contends that dropping the suit works in Zuma’s favor as it takes him off the witness stand.
If he had proceeded with his first claim, relating to his dignity, Mr Zuma would have had to testify from the witness box. As it is a subjective claim, he would have had to make the case that he felt his dignity had been abused. This would have opened him up to cross-examination from the paper?s advocate, Wim Trengove, who is well known for his skills in cross-examination.
However, even the second claim, that he had been defamed, would have allowed Zapiro to present evidence that Mr Zuma had deliberately abused the justice system, as depicted by Lady Justice in the original cartoon.