Laughing all the Way to the Polls

JACOB Zuma may be laughing all the way to election victory next week, but South Africans tuning into state-owned TV will not be able to enjoy any laughs at the African National Congress leader’s expense.

This week the South African Broadcasting Corporation axed a special show looking at political satire in the country, two months after the TV executives put a stop to a satirical puppet show based on the caricatures of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known by his penname “Zapiro”.

The broadcaster said South Africans were not ready for satire after reportedly spending some one million rand on a pilot of Z-News, whose doll of Zuma is topped by a shower head.

This is a Zapiro trademark — an ignominious reminder of Zuma’s testimony during his rape trial in 2006.
He was acquitted, but widely ridiculed after saying he took a shower to minimise the risk of infection after having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman.

“South Africans are definitely ready for satire, I think probably the SABC isn’t,” says Cape Town-based Justin Nurse.

His company Laugh It Off has recently brought out a new soap — the Zuma Shower Gel, with the tag line “feel presidential” and the precaution: “Do not think that by using this product you can wash HIV/Aids away”.
“SABC and the ANC go hand in hand so it’s hard to distinguish the two — I’m surprised they got that far with the SABC to begin with,” Nurse told the BBC.

Several months before the show was canned, Zuma described the cartoonist as “totally out of order” and started legal proceedings against Shapiro for defaming him in a cartoon showing him about to rape the “justice system”.

The cartoon was published last September when the ANC president was still facing charges of corruption. These have since been dropped.  — BBCOnline.