Internet goes where TV fears to tread with ZA News

2009-10-07 13:34

After an 11-year struggle to see their satirical puppet show aired,

Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) and Thierry Cassuto yesterday saw the launch of ZA

News, new episodes of which will air from Tuesday to Friday on the Mail &

Guardian Online, and the ZA News website, with an omnibus edition on


The first episode, screened at the launch of ZA News at the Grand

Daddy Hotel on Long Street in Cape Town, featured life-size latex-rubber puppets

of various political figures in conversations, interviews and political address.

In the episode, a puppet version of Tim Modise interviews Julius

Malema, who consults his Pedi dictionary to confirm that the internet, unlike

the tokoloshe, does not exist and is a Western fabrication to be roundly


Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu relax in front of a TV

set and have a docile bicker about what exactly the “opium of the masses” is.

When Mandela offers that it is religion, Tutu muses that if that is

so, then “TV must be the dagga”.

Interviewed about the initiative, Shapiro shrugged off suggestions

that he may be concerned about legal action, considering the two lawsuits

currently against him by President Jacob Zuma.

“I’m not nervous, this is an internet thing. It’s very different.

Regarding the lawsuits against me by the president I cannot imagine how it would

be a productive thing for a president to come to court with me all day. But we

could do a ZA News version of that. It could be very funny,” he said.

Previous attempts by the creators to get the SABC to air the show

have been unsuccessful, but with backing from and the Mail &

Guardian ZA News will see the light of day.

As for how he thought Malema would feel about his representation in

the production, Shapiro said the ANCYL president was more intelligent than

people thought, but “comes across in a weird way”, and had been known to visit

the odd comedy club.

He said there was a certain narcissistic trend among politicians.

“They want to see themselves in a cartoon,” he said.

Cassuto, the executive producer of the show, was quick to add that

politicians who were unhappy that they had been left out should be reassured

that more puppets were being made, and everyone would be included.

Cassuto, whose move to South Africa from France in 1998 was

motivated by the freedom of expression in the country, said the daily deadline

would be a great challenge.

He said although the team had virtually no money to begin with, lacking desks, chairs and even an internet connection, it had a “huge heart and enormous passion”. Writers include, among others, shock-satirist Ben Trovato, Steve Francis and Lauren Beukes, with some input from Shapiro.

– West Cape News

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