Earlier this week, Eyewitness News drew the collective anger of the country when they published an online cartoon titled “Congress of Clowns and the clowns who voted them in”. The cartoon depicted newly appointed ministers as clowns with red noses attempting (and horribly failing) to conduct various acts. On the other side of the frame are clowns of a darker hue with captions that label them “poephols” and the “clowns who voted them [the ministers] in”. The subtext couldn’t be clearer: if you’re black and you voted for the ANC, you’re an asshole who’s indirectly led to the demise of the country.
As you can imagine, people didn’t take too kindly to the cartoon. The whole affair has been, to put it mildly, a complete and utter disaster. The ANC said the cartoon was blatantly racist and that it reinforced “the view that some sections of the media misuse freedom of expression to undermine gains made thus far”. COSATU also chipped in, demanding that “EWN and Primedia admit that the cartoon was racist in the way that it portrayed ANC voting clowns as exclusively black.” The EWN responded to public and political scrutiny by releasing a statement acknowledging the offence the cartoon caused but (snidely) added that they would continue to “strive for free speech”.
“We recognise that a political cartoon is open to individual interpretation. We accept that, however unintended, the commentary contained in the cartoon has offended some of our valued listeners, followers and readers, and we at EWN apologise for any unintended offence caused,” the statement read.
“We at EWN will continue to strive for free speech and editorial independence,” the statement concluded.
The publishing of the cartoon and the subsequent non-apology speaks volumes. Let’s not pussyfoot around the matter: the ANC is a black party. It’s electorate is largely made up of black people – everyone knows that. And it’s not so much a matter of “individual interpretation”. The cartoon infers that black people don’t possess the autonomy to think for themselves. They constantly have to be monitored by a white authoritarian figure to guide them into making the right decision. Where is the talk of DA voters being assh*les for voting in a party that continuously fails to address the dire conditions in the Western Cape? Or is that kind of talk strictly reserved for the ANC?
Until we realise that racism isn’t limited to calling someone the k-word, such latent acts of racism will always go unpunished. It’s not cool to call people clowns for voting ANC. It’s not cool to suggest that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves and make an informed, educated vote. Judging by the controversy the cartoon attracted, most of South Africa knows this. Now, someone go tell EWN.
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