Born in Cape Town in 1958, he couldn’t imagine a career in cartooning so studied architecture at the University of Cape Town. When he doubted that career choice he tried switching to Graphic Design but got conscripted to serve his compulsory two years in the then South African Defense Force (SADF) in 1983.
While in the army Zapiro refused to bear arms for the Apartheid government and instead became active in the newly formed United Democratic Front. His arrest under the Illegal Gatherings Act led to the military intelligence monitoring his every move as he went on to participate in the brave End Conscription Campaign.
His work as a cartoonist began in earnest when the newspaper South started in 1987 and he became its editorial cartoonist. This led however to his detainment by security police in 1988 after which he opted to leave the country on a Fulbright Scholarship to study media arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The city was an eye-opening experience for Zapiro who studied under comic masters Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.
Zapiro returned to South Africa in 1991 and with Story Circle produced educational comics including Roxy (Aids education), Tomorrow People (democracy education) and A Trolley Full of Rights, a child abuse prevention comic later used by UNICEF throughout Africa. These days his controversial outspoken work appears in all the leading publications, regularly getting him into trouble with government, but nothing will ever stop the brilliantly poignant political cartoonist from putting pen to paper.