Johannesburg: Well-known Indian-origin South African cartoonist Nanda Soobben, who often caricatures leading political figures, has been asked by the government to shut his design school, his supporters said.
Soobben, whose work was lauded by former President Nelson Mandela and forms part of the late elder statesman's collection, established the Centre for Fine Art, Animation and Design in 1994, as democracy dawned in South Africa.
He was instructed to halt lessons after the Education Department informed him that his accreditation to operate as a private higher education institution had been suspended for the second time within weeks.
Soobben has appealed against the decision but has refused to stop tutoring his 20 students half of whom are studying free.
Soobben said the first time his accreditation was suspended was because he could not provide the department details of the students.
"I was robbed four times and forced to move premises. The department suspended our accreditation because we didn't have our students' database which had been stolen in the robberies with all our computers. We then set up a new database appealed and were reinstated," he was quoted as saying by TimesLive.
The school's accreditation was suspended again when following their move they failed to provide the department with a health and safety report.
"We moved in a hurry because of the crime situation. But we got the report done and sent it within the specified time.
They say the appeal is pending but we are still suspended," he added.
Soobben has been acknowledged as the country's first non-White cartoonist of note, who could not be employed by mainstream newspapers despite his talent because of anti-apartheid laws and his resistance to them.
Soobben’s supporters have started an online petition against the Education Department, some claiming that Soobben was being victimised because he often caricatures leading political figures and speaks out against government corruption.
Soobben has held exhibitions all over the world, including India, winning numerous awards for his political cartoons, paintings, satirical journalism and social commentary.
Some of his work is also housed at the famed Smithsonian Institute in the US. In 2010, the Durban University of Technology, which had denied him registration as a student in his youth, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his significant contributions to society.