Fonds AL3129 - Zapiro TRC Cartoon Collection

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Zapiro TRC Cartoon Collection


  • 1997 (Accumulation)
  • 1995 - 2004 (Accumulation)

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0.1 linear metre (1 archival box)

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Biographical history

Jonathan Shapiro, who goes by the pen name ZAPIRO, is an established political cartoonist from Cape Town whose work dates back to the politically turbulent 1980s. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established, Zapiro was working on retainer, producing political cartoons on a weekly basis for the national weekly newspaper the “Mail & Guardian”, on a daily basis for the “The Sowetan” and at a day’s remove, "The Sowetan" cartoon also appeared in the “Cape Argus”. His TRC cartoons can be contextualized within his perception of the central theme of the TRC, namely “to get to as much truth as possible and to attempt reconciliation.” In an interview conducted for purposes of entering information about the Zapiro TRC Cartoon Collection into the Directory of TRC Archival Resources, Zapiro asserted that he felt no compunction “to be a spokesperson on a mission for the TRC”, even though he agreed with the necessity for a TRC. He was therefore able to lampoon the inability of the TRC to bring the true Apartheid power elite to accept responsibility for their oppressive governance, or to satirise the overly “religious” face of the Commission. He was also capable of expressing very succinctly and irreverently his disillusionment with Government’s lack of commitment to providing reparation to victims as recommended by the TRC. For Zapiro “the unanswered and most difficult question” with which he and so many victimized South African had to deal with was “is it fair that there was no retributive justice?” The TRC was mandated to operate with the concept of “restorative justice”. Hence Zapiro lampoons in many cartoons the way “justice” was meted out during the course of the TRC as well as the fundamental inefficacy for the nature of the task of “truth-finding”.

The cartoons cover the period 1994, when the constitution of the TRC was being debated in public, to 2004 which saw the debate about reparations for victims of gross human rights violations still being waged.

ANC - African National Congress

APLA - Azanian People's Liberation Army

CCB - Civil Cooperation Bureau

FF - Freedom Front

GHRV - Gross Human Rights Violations

IFP - Inkatha Freedom Party

M&G - Mail & Guardian

NP - National Party

PAC - Pan Africanist Congress

SABC - South Africa Broadcasting Corporation

SADF - South African Defence Force

SAP - South African Police Service

TRC - Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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All Zapiro’s cartoons are drawn with a very sharp pen. Nonetheless only one of his cartoons has ever been ‘pulled’. A cartoon depicting former President FW de Klerk’s responsibility (as head of the Apartheid State and its security forces) for the atrocities that emanated from the notorious “Vlakplaas”, with De Klerk’s head as the proverbial tip of the iceberg, was ‘pulled’ by The Sowetan, for whom the cartoon was drawn. The newspaper was of the opinion that the cartoon was potentially defamatory. Zapiro had therefore to replace De Klerk’s head with that of Eugene de Kock, the self-confessed commander of “Vlakplaas”. Both cartoons form part of the Collection.

This collection was initially arranged by subject matter. In order to portray the sequence of events during the TRC the cartoons have now been arranged by year.

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This collection is open for research

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