BULAWAYO – The state owned Chronicle newspaper has suspended its cartoonist Wellington Musapenda over what it called a cartoon “loaded with unacceptable sexist and tribal undertones which have rightly upset a lot of people.”
In the cartoon Musapenda, depicted two scantily dressed women passing by a newspaper billboard inscribed with the words “Mat’land, Midlands post worst school results.”
In response to her friend named Thembi, the other woman remarks that, “We excel in other areas, don’t we Thembi.”
In a statement published on Friday, the paper’s editor Mduduzi Mathuthu said “we are deeply sorry for the hurt and offence that this cartoon, which should never have been published, has caused.”
“The cartoonist, Welington Musapenda, has been suspended for not only the unacceptable message his cartoon carried, but also a deliberate circumvention of laid down and established procedures for submitting editorial content for publication in The Chronicle.
“The offensive cartoon, against standing rules, was not submitted for review to any og the four senior editorial executives during the editorial conference. The cartoon was sent staright to page designers who cleared it for printing,” Mathuthu said.
“This was a serious violation of our editorial procedures. We will now review our systems to ensure this does not occur again in the future.
“For the avoidance of doubt, The Chronicle respects the artistic licence of its cartoonists, but sexist or tribal prejudice, discrimination and bigoted baiting of sections of our society do not in any way represent who we are and what we stand for,” Mathuthu added.
Meanwhile a group calling itself the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights has written an open letter demanding the sacking of Musapenda.
“We need to put it on record that whilst appreciating that Musapenda as an artist has artistic freedom, it needs to be considered that:
1. the issue he poked fun on, the issue of high failure rates in Matabeleland is a serious human and children’s rights and development issue which cannot be trivialized in such a manner;
2. It is tribally insensitive and wrong for Musapenda to infer that the people of Matabeleland and Midlands fail school and excel in prostitution as depicted by his prostitution like characters.
“Please bear in mind that we are aware that Musapenda uses such skimpy attires to depict prostitutes in some of his cartoons;
3. This cartoon by Musapenda also comes at a time when the people of the region are complaining of Shona teachers in Matabeleland and have observed that it is their presence that contributes to failure rate of the region. Musapenda being Shona himself seems to be enjoying our calamity and this makes us believe the Shona have a well calculated and structured plan to violate our rights and laugh at us.
“Based on the above facts, we feel Musapenda did not only abuse his artistic rights but also violated the rights of the people of Matabeleland and Midlands especially their right to dignity,” the group said in a statement.