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Watch the latest ZA News at The Pepper Express!

Posted on 07 October 2009 by Phillipa Mitchell

We couldn’t resist…zanews

Unsuccessful in their attempts to screen ZA News on national television, the producers of the satirical news show, ZA News, in collaboration with  The Mail & Guardian Online, are now flighting three-minute weekly epidoses ONLINE  from Tuesday to Friday, with a weekly wrap-up on Saturday. The show is performed by puppets inspired by the work of award-winning cartoonist Zapiro.

Click here to watch the latest episodes of ZA News or click on www.mg.co.za/zanews


6 October 2009, Cape Town : After ten years in development the satirical news show created by Zapiro and Thierry Cassuto will begin showing on Tuesday 6th October. ZA NEWS will become one of the few South African political satires featuring content based on current South African issues and news. The topical comedy skits feature local politicians and celebrities such as Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille and Nelson Mandela in latex puppet form.  ZA NEWS is being headline sponsored by popular airline and ecommerce site kulula.com and hosted by Mail and Guardian Online.

“The exciting thing about the opening up of online channels is how we can entertain and build relationships with communities.  Here we can develop new programmes, we can engage our audiences, and we can share perspectives in an interactive environment.  kulula.com and the Mail & Guardian make perfect partners as relevant, powerful brands and leaders in building online communities,” said Thierry Cassuto , co-creator and producer / director of ZA NEWS.

Online distribution was decided upon following massive viewership (over 100 000 views) on YouTube, and other web channels, during the lengthy negotiations with broadcasters to get the show on air. ZA News has been created as short episodes that run for roughly 3 minutes each in length from Tuesday to Friday and a longer skit on Saturday which highlights the events from the week. The shows will be streamed via web video and are available at www.mg.co.za, www.zanews.co.za and www.kulula.com.

“In South Africa more happens in a week than in a year in some other places. ZA NEWS is outrageous, infuriating and as funny as the news, only more so,” comments Zapiro.

“Political satire is an essential part of a vibrant democracy and I’m amazed that with so much inspiration all around us it’s taken so long for our country to allow political satire to get on air. Where many have proved reluctant to support this type of content, we feel strongly about giving South Africans a voice and a channel for healthy, robust and engaging debate.  We need to laugh together and grow together and the power of the internet means that brands such as kulula.com are in a position to fill the vacuum through sponsorship and access to our sizable online audience,” said Heidi Brauer , Group Marketing Executive Manager of kulula.com

Nick Dawes, editor for the Mail and Guardian comments, “We believe that www.mg.co.za is the logical home for ZA NEWS as it points the way forward for us a news and content company that is increasingly investing in new platforms, and reaching new audiences. It is important that the Mail and Guardian does this in a way that will continue to represent our basic editorial values – independence, fearlessness, quality and relevance.  ZA NEWS ticks all of those boxes and while I find it baffling that none of the traditional broadcasters have been bold enough to take it on, I am delighted that the Mail and Guardian is able to fill the gap.” 

“It’s been 10 years since Zapiro and I first conceived the idea of a satirical news show using latex puppets. We are extremely grateful to kulula.com and the Mail & Guardian for realizing and believing in our passion and funding the first season.  With their support we are able to share laughter with others online, as we say at ZA NEWS, because “Here we can,” concludes Cassuto.


Puppets on the show will include:

  • TUTU
  • JZ
  • PDV

ZA NEWS staff:

  • Created by Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) and Thierry Cassuto
  • Co creator and Directed by Thierry Cassuto
  • Writers: Ben Travato, Stephen Francis, Thierry Cassuto
  • Voice artists: Aggrey Lonake, Nik Rabinowitz, Nikki Jackman
  • Manipulators: Jacqueline van Meygaaden, Annelie Fourie, Tea Visagie, Kim Kerfoot, Johaan Vermaak, Anton Treurnich, Nicholas Dallas, Hansie Visagie
  • Lighting cameraman: Crispian Abbott
  • Production Manager: Nazeera Hartley
  • Production designer: Riccardo Tugliese
  • Puppets produced at CFX 
  • Design: AM I Collective / Ikraal
  • Music: Greg @ SoundSuite

Statement issued by Atmosphere Communications on behalf of ZA News, October 6 2009

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Zapiro: My Life as a Political Cartoonist

Posted on 06 October 2009 by Phillipa Mitchell

Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, is South Africa’s top political cartoonist. At the age of 50 he has beenzapiro awarded two honorary doctorates, a string of international awards and has been sued for R15 million (£1m) by president Jacob Zuma. In Johannesburg, Shapiro – a name which once landed him in jail – told David Beresford that his passion for cartoons dates back almost to the time he learned to walk.

My father was an advocate, my mother a social worker. He was born in South Africa and they met at the London School of Economics. They got married in England and came out to settle in South Africa. My dad was well-known for being the most ethical, courteous, gentlemanly, lawyer around. The word “gentleman” crops up whenever he is mentioned. He had a strong sense of justice and fair play, but didn’t really buck the system like my mother; he didn’t join the organisations and kept within himself.

My mother worked as a social worker in the East End of London, with very deprived kids. She was born in Berlin. Her family fled Nazi Germany and got out just in time, at the beginning of 1938. They went to England and her father was interned as an enemy alien, even though he was a Jewish refugee.

My family were all supportive of the anti-apartheid movement, but we only really found a political home when the United Democratic Front started in 1983. We were all inspired by the UDF. My sister Yvonne was detained in 1985, during the first state of emergency.  My mother was detained in 1986 – the second state of emergency – and I was detained in 1988.

From the age of eight or nine I knew that cartooning was my favourite thing. At the age of four I remember reading Giles, those beautiful coloured covers. But the big ones for me were Peanuts and Tintin, who I discovered at about seven and eight.

They still are two of my great inspirations. Hergé and Schulz – they are geniuses. At 13 I started to make a book based on the Tintin action films, to impress Hergé and get them to let me be part of their team. Then I decided, no, I wanted to do my own stuff.

At the age of 15, there was some pressure to “be something” and of course there was that ogre, the army. I thought I’d better do something “proper” to stay out of the military. Architecture seemed a good marriage of arts and sciences.  I got into Cape Town University easily enough, but I realised architecture was not where my heart was.

I did four years on campus and then my practical year and it was then that I tried to see Hergé at his studio in Paris. He was not well and he’d gone away the previous day, but his assistant, Bob de Moor, invited me in and showed me around.

I also went to visit Uderzo (Asterix) in Paris; I’m embarrassed to remember it, but I got lost and I finally knocked on his door at 11pm and rang the bell. He was dressed, not in his dressing gown, or anything like that. He couldn’t speak English, but his daughter translated for us.

My name? There was a guy a few years ahead of me at school, also a Shapiro, whose name was spelt the Hungarian way, SZ – like Szabo – and some of the guys thought he was my brother and they called me “Zap”. I thought, well that’s a good name for  a cartoonist, so I signed my cartoons Zap from the time I was 13 (in 1972) until 1984 when I started doing some fairly hard-hitting, political cartoons and Karina, my wife, said it sounded too “California surfer”.  I pulled the rest of my name into it, Zapiro. And it sounded better.

I applied for a Fulbright scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York and got it. I then decided I would hold a big exhibition, at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. On the night of the day that the exhibition came down the Branch came around and hauled me off to Pollsmoor Prison.

This was in 1988, early July, at the time of the Mandela 70th birthday celebrations, the huge party at Wembley Stadium. There was a Mandela birthday committee to organise things here in South Africa. I only put two and two together during my first interrogation – I suddenly realised they thought I was on the Mandela birthday committee. I was an activist, but I wasn’t on the committee.  They’d mixed me up with another Shapiro.

I was taken to interrogation. I refused to answer any questions and was put in solitary for five days. I was lucky, I’m sure solitary can affect you badly if you’re in a bad space, but I was feeling mentally strong.

They did release me in time to take up the Fulbright and I went to New York and there I studied under Will Eisner (one of the absolute greats); Harvey Kurtzman, who started Mad magazine; and Art Spiegelman, who did Maus, on the Holocaust, for which he got the Pulitzer prize for literature. He was the progenitor of the true graphic novel.

At the end of his trial for rape in 2006, when he was aquitted, Jacob Zuma sued a handful of individuals and entities in the media. I was one of those. There were R63 million worth of lawsuits – I was sued for R15 million. Last year he sued me for another R7 million, for the “Rape of Justice” cartoon. It showed Zuma standing over a spreadeagled Lady Justice, unbuckling his trousers, while being urged on by political allies.

Of all the cartoons I have ever done, the “Rape” cartoon has provoked by far the greatest response. It has been attacked, praised, debated and analysed on public platforms, on TV, on radio, in newspaper editorials, opinion pieces, columns, on the letters pages and in huge volumes on blogs and online media. The controversy surrounding the cartoon was covered in many international media, including BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, The New York Times, Le Monde and The LA Times.

The background to it was that, in mid-2008 a South African judge, was about to pronounce on whether the corruption case against Zuma should go ahead. Enormous pressure was being put on the judiciary. The leader of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, famously said he’d kill for Zuma if the court case went ahead. When Malema made this utterance, Zuma was present on the same platform and said nothing in response when it was his turn to speak. Gwede Mantashe, the chairman of the Communist Party, called Constitutional Court judges counter-revolutionaries and said there’d be anarchy if the court case went ahead.

Of course the cartoon reads metaphorically, not literally, because Lady Justice is a symbolic figure. How could a cartoon portraying an interaction between an allegorical figure and a caricature of a real person be anything but a metaphor? But Zuma remains outraged at being “portrayed as a rapist” after his rape acquittal. Zuma is suing me for R7 million for this cartoon – R5 million for damage to his reputation and R2 million for injury to his dignity.

I suspect his outrage must have been compounded by the infamous shower-head. At his rape trial in 2006, Zuma – asked if he took any precautions against HIV/Aids –  said that after sex he took a shower. I started drawing in a shower-head attached to his head, to remind readers of this ludicrous remark. It came to represent far more than the HIV/Aids comment. It sparked lots of reaction, both for and against.

In May I detached it from his head, feeling it was time to give the presidency a chance to get going. We all have to take stock of the reality that he is now president of the country. Now the shower floats above him, getting further from his head or closer again depending on how well I feel he’s doing – my own sort of political barometer.

There have been quite a lot of lawsuits against cartoonists, but not for such huge amounts. The sheriff arrived at my door with the summons, which I must say was a bit of a bad moment. But I was soon laughing at it again.

When people ask what I think will happen with the court cases I invariably say: imagine the scenario if it does go all the way. The president of the country arriving in court – he would have to come to court himself – together with his entourage. He would then have to go into the witness box and face cross-examination. And then I would get my chance in the witness box. It would be the a media circus. There is no way he’s going to do that, so I would assume he’s either going to pressure me for an apology, or retraction. But I’m certainly not going to backtrack, or climb down.

It is completely ridiculous.

Published in The Guardian Weekly

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