Grant Staff’s political cartoonist background in Zimbabwe stands him in good stead
the Zimbabwean cartoonist who is also a local mining engineer
At first glance, Grant Staff seems like any other mining engineer.
He lives in Highfields with his wife and children and goes to work at Acland Mine each day as an engineer. But there is more to this man than meets the eye. He is a talented cartoonist, now using his skills to illustrate the series of children’s books his kids inspired him to create.
But years earlier, at the young age of 18, Grant worked for the Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper as a political cartoonist.
“I remember seeing a news story of how Robert Mugabe [the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe], in December 1999, had given himself a raise on his official salary and then backdated his pay for about six months,” says Grant.
“This blatant corruption infuriated me so I sent the newspaper a picture I had drawn of Robert Mugabe dressed up as Santa Claus with a bag of cash over his shoulder,” he said.
“That Friday I picked up a copy of the paper and my drawing had been published with a news article on the issue.
“Shortly after that I got a call from one of the editors asking if I wanted to go on the payroll and do a weekly drawing for print.”
Being quite young, Grant was initially relatively oblivious to the potential risk associated with how his cartoons represented the Prime Minister and other political figures.
“One night, while at a mate’s barbecue, we heard a loud bang some distance away that sounded like an explosion,” Grant explains. “It turned out it was! “The Daily News had been bombed, allegedly by government security forces.”
It surprised Grant, as the Daily News was a more moderate paper than his employer, the Zimbabwe Independent.
“This is what finally made me really comprehend the seriousness of the political situation,” Grant says.
“Who knows, if I had stayed in Zimbabwe as a political cartoonist I may have had a few encounters with the security forces.”
It was partly due to the deteriorating political situation, but also chance that led to Grant moving to Australia at 21.
“I came to Australia on a travelling holiday after finishing school.
“At the time I knew nothing about the place but I fell in love with the country from the moment I got here.”
Grant’s mother visited Toowoomba with him and was offered a job at the Toowoomba Hospital.
By the time Grant returned to Zimbabwe after extended travels, he was informed his entire family were moving to Australia as permanent residents.
These days Grant is found busy at Acland Mine, where he can easily come home to his wife and two children each evening in Highfields.
He hasn’t been able to work further as a political cartoonist at a newspaper, but is turning his illustrative skills to children’s books.
“I have a trilogy planned ... I have the story lines worked out and I am currently working on character development through concept art,” he says.
Grant plans to publish the first book by October next year.
This blatant corruption [of the Zimbabwe Prime Minister] infuriated me so I sent the newspaper a picture I had drawn of Robert Mugabe dressed up as Santa Claus with a bag of cash over his shoulder — GRANT STAFF