South Africa’s president drops legal case against cartoonist

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Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, whose position on HIV/AIDS and gay rights has repeatedly been cited by campaigners as holding the country back, has dropped a lawsuit against one of his critics.

President Zuma had initially sued cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro after a sketch depicted him as getting ready to rape a female figure representing justice.

Mr Zuma’s lawyers had been demanding damages of 5m rand ($578,000; £369,000) for the cartoon and claimed that his dignity had been insulted.

It was published in 2008 before he became president.

Mr Zuma, a polygamist who’s been married six times, has around 20 children.

He has previously stated his opposition to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, describing it “as a disgrace to the nation and to God” in 2006.

Mr Shapiro has frequently mocked Mr Zuma in his illustrations.

He has usually depicted the president with a shower over his head – a reference to a previous sexual assault case – during which Mr Zuma claimed he had taken a shower to protect himself from HIV transmission.

It was after he had admitted in court to having unprotected sex with a woman that he knew was already HIV positive.

This shower statement was condemned by the judge, health experts, and HIV prevention groups.

Mr Zuma was acquitted over a charge of rape in 2006.

Over the past year, human rights campaigners have warned of an “epidemic” of brutal homophobic attacks in South Africa, despite the country being seen by many as a safe LGBT haven compared to other parts of the continent.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International detailed how LGBT citizens were now at greater risk of attacks in South Africa’s rural townships and human rights groups have called on Mr Zuma’s government to provide greater protection.