President Jacob Zuma is suing Avusa Media for R5 million for Zapiro's Lady Justice rape cartoon, The Times reported on Tuesday.
Zuma started proceedings against Avusa, the cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro and former Sunday Times editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya in a summons issued in the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday.
The cartoon, depicting Zuma preparing to rape Lady Justice, was published on September 7, 2008.
The president, who was acquitted of a rape charge in 2006, was shown loosening his trousers while African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe look on, saying: "Go for it, boss."
The president said the cartoon was degrading and left him feeling humiliated, demanding R4 million from Avusa, Makhanya and Shapiro and a further R1 million for damaging his reputation.
The Presidency did not want to comment to The Times and were not immediately available when Sapa tried to get comment on Tuesday morning.
Sunday Times attorney Eric van der Berg said the lawsuit was unexpected.
"We are surprised to receive this almost two years down the track. That is all we have to say at this stage."
Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley said it was "sad" that a political figure "can sue over a cartoon".
Shapiro told The Times that he "fully" stood behind his cartoon and the views expressed in it.
"I will not allow the president to intimidate me," he said.