No shower for Zuma in sign language

2011-12-19 21:50

Johannesburg - Sign language users identify President Jacob Zuma by his forehead and not a showerhead, DeafSA said on Monday.

"The reference that was made that President Zuma's name sign makes reference to a shower is incorrect," said national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA), Bruno Druchen.

"In sign language they do not degrade people, or use a sign that will embarrass".

Druchen was responding to comments by cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro in The Star newspaper, where he said that he had heard deaf people were using a showerhead to depict Zuma in sign language.

"Zuma's forehead is large. What [sign language users] do is they put their hand palm open on their forehead and press it back."

It was a sign which required two movements to be completed.

Druchen said that a shower sign was completely different.

"Your hand is a claw and it opens like a shower and this is repeated".

Name signs

Druchen also said other political figures had specific name signs.

For example, embattled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was identified by his cheeks.

"[Sign language users] will open up a palm and put their thumb next to their chin. They do this on both sides.

"It's not degrading. It's a feature that people will pick up on."

When it came to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, his "bok beard" was seen as his distinguishing feature.

"If you take your hand and you scratch your chin...[you] form a little beard."

Druchen said that "personal name signs" were a valued aspect of South African Sign Language (SASL) and deaf culture.

He said that in deaf culture, a "culturally and lingually deaf person assigns a name sign to a new non-native member of the community".

"In this culture, it is a gift, something that is given to one and is not something that a non-native can pick or invent for oneself."


Druchen said that there was a "complex system of rules" which governed how a name sign was formed.

"Assigning a name sign is usually not given quickly, nor without consideration of its rules."

"In deaf culture and sign language, a sign name is a special sign that is used to uniquely identify a person, just like a name."

Until a name sign is established, the person's name is usually finger-spelled.

Sign names were usually subdivided between descriptive and arbitrary ones.

Descriptive name signs "manually illustrate physical features", whereas arbitrary name signs are created by users putting their fingers in a letter formation on a particular part of the face.

"Though the location can sometimes have some implications (for example forehead/temple for male, chin/mouth for female), it is usually just a unique sign without other meaning."

For example, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille was depicted by an arbitrary name sign.

The letter H was formed on the cheek and the "Z" of her surname depicted as a separate sign.

Non-native signers

Druchen said that it was possible that non-native signers made up their own signs.

"Unfortunately, many non-native signers make up name signs for themselves or others [whereby]... their formation may be unsuitable, or contextually awkward."

He also said it was sometimes possible for name signs to change.

"A sign name can be changed once or so in a person's lifetime for some reason".

Shapiro - better known by his pen-name of Zapiro - made his comments about sign language in the aftermath of the ANC's Limpopo conference at the weekend.

Malema had held his hand over his head to represent a shower, while joining in the singing of anti-Zuma songs which proclaimed "showara wa re sokodisa" meaning "the shower man is giving us a hard time".


Zapiro said this was an ironic gesture.

"The irony is that Malema has come from a place so deeply embedded in the Zuma camp and [now] he's attacking him using the shower device," said Zapiro.

Malema is currently appealing a five-year suspension from the ANC after he was found to have brought the party in disrepute.

Zapiro said that the shower head image continued to hold potency in public culture.

"Whichever faction has something against Zuma might pick it up regardless of whether they had earlier poured scorn on the original shower head."

Zapiro first depicted Zuma with a shower during his rape trial in 2006, after Zuma told the court that he had showered to protect himself from infection after having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman.

Zuma later apologised for the comment.

Zuma is suing Zapiro for R5m for the way he has been depicted by the cartoonist.

  • Squeegee - 2011-12-19 21:56

    Actually, for Julius they just point to their ass and shake their heads. Its easier than bending down and sticking their heads up...

      Andre - 2011-12-20 08:14

      For Zuma, deaf people should put one index finger near their crotch and the other hand about 30 cm away from their crotch. This should signal a man with a 30cm vienna schnitzel. Zuma must clearly be packing lots of heat if can father 22 children and counting. Seems he not short of lead in his pencil. PW botha was the groot krokodil ut Zuma is the groot donkey!

  • Saksak Motsepe - 2011-12-19 21:59

    "Sign language users identify President Jacob Zuma by his forehead" hahahahahahahaha. I'm sorry but that's funny

      Bongani - 2011-12-19 22:10

      Actually I'm not laughing about this at all Saksak. To me, I feel tonight, I, as a South African has been made a joke of. No matter what his shortcomings are, we still need to respect him as a human being and by allowing this absolute rude uncultured behaviour is a sign of the rot setting in, in our own culture. This hooligan needs to be put in his place.

      schoombie - 2011-12-19 22:35

      @Ibhubesi how are you being made a joke of,how can you respect a person that made 783 charges of fraud dissapear and is electected president takes a shower to rid himself of aids, backs the likes of Bob and Gadaffi fathers a basted child and you call Saksak a hooligan

      Godfrey - 2011-12-19 22:36

      @Ibhubesi try and live as a deaf person for one day and you will appreciate their difficulty when following the news.

      Bongani - 2011-12-19 22:55

      I wasn't referring to Saksak as a hooligan. Malema is the hooligan. Surely that was evident in my post?????? My point is, as a South African, irrespective of my own fierce criticism of Zuma, I feel shame that the current President of my country is belittled in this manner by someone with no manners or any political class. I am not defending Zuma's ill doings, but he is still the President of my country, warts and all.

      Godfrey - 2011-12-19 23:00

      @Ibhubesi Trust you felt the same when the very same Malema did it to Mbeki

      Bongani - 2011-12-19 23:04

      @Schoombie. This is my country and no matter if I vote IFP, DA or ANC, he is still the President of this country and I will never in my wildest dreams think of singing songs about his shower blunder. It is bad taste and speaks of a lack of breeding. @Godfrey. I wasn't referring to deaf people or making fun of them in any manner whatsoever. My gripe is with Malema and his public disrespect of his President. It is a matter of principle. You don't do this to a fellow politician or even to an ordinary citizen.

      Bongani - 2011-12-19 23:15

      @Godfrey. Truth be told, I only had one issue with Mbeki and that was his Zimbabwe policy. But to me Mbeki was man of class. He behaved and talked like statesman. He looked like a President. He made me feel as a citizen that I was protected. Tonight I feel as if my beloved land had died. I'm in a terrible mood and I can't understand why the elders of the ANC are taking all of this. I feel as if we have no President.

      Deeteem - 2011-12-20 04:50

      @schoombie : "fathers a basted child" Very apt for this time of the year, a basted child !!!

      Ryan - 2011-12-20 05:15

      Ibhubesi ... if someone does something wrong, I think we can poke fun at it. no matter who it is. even the president.

      Ryan - 2011-12-20 05:55

      especially if its very dumb and foolhardy

      Rob - 2011-12-20 08:35

      On the note of respect......two issues 1. Respect for the Presidency 2. Respect for the individual The presidency is fragile, can be dammaged by events and people AND most definitely needs to be respected and defended against anyone who brings it into disrepute. The individual begins with a provisional degree of respect because of the position he holds. They then earn or lose respect from their actions and behaviours, in gaining or losing respect in this manner it is inevitable that the individual effects the presidency. For many Zuma cannot be respected, his actions have lost him the provisional respect granted to his position and he doesn't have the moral stature or presence to recover it...he is not a leader, ony a herder. Consequently he has also damaged the presedency. What now?

      Jonathan - 2011-12-20 09:36

      Yea, and it totally empty!!

  • Smanga Zwane - 2011-12-19 22:13

    "For Julius Malema, it's his cheeks." ... Perhaps they need a sign for all the tenders he's notched over the years... And a composite sign for screwing the poor...

      Juan - 2011-12-20 03:48

      To me what is most striking is the vacuum between these polititians' ears. They are a laughing stock the lot of them

  • Azande - 2011-12-19 22:15

    I wonder what is Gwede's sign. Hahahahaa

      David - 2011-12-20 07:14

      Big stomach and beard..hehehe

  • Kevin Walker - 2011-12-19 22:17

    I'll copy the link for those who need it: The paragraph in question read: " Zapiro said that he had heard the showerhead was used by some deaf people in sign language to represent Zuma." Note SOME!! This linguistic innovation is probably being used by a small group of SASL-speakers who understand who the new sign refers to. When signing to outsiders, the standard forehead gesture will probably still be used.

      ThailandJohn - 2011-12-20 03:40

      @Kevin, I live overseas and missed the Zapiro cartoon, where can I take a look at it please. Thanks for the news clip.

      Hans - 2011-12-20 09:00

      @ ThailandJohn - Try this link.

  • hilton.preston - 2011-12-19 23:00

    and this is the MAIN headline on News24? for shizel?!

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2011-12-19 23:40

    I think we should get some perspective here. Zuma is a human being, a South African, like the rest of us. Therefore he should be respected. He also holds the rank of President of our country, and this rank should be respected. However... Zuma is also president of the ANC, who unilaterally made him our President. Under Zuma's watch, R billions have been spent on bling purchases, luxury accommodation, maintenance of ego's, trips abroad, self enrichment via the fiscus and many other examples of theft from the people he is supposed to serve. Zuma is also friends with the Swazi king-gave him something like R1.2bn of which the "king" demanded R400m as commission for himself. This "king" abducts and rapes young girls, and lives in decadent opulence, while his people suffer. Although empowered to do so, Zuma did nothing, or very little, to fire government officials damaging the country through self enrichment. Members of Zuma's own family are guilty of gross transgressions in this regard. Zuma is a member of the infamous "Blue light Brigade" and has done nothing to remove this scourge from our roads. Straight after the COP 17 conference Zuma hopped onto a plane for an ego trip to Benin. Burnt a few hundred tons of Jet-A1 in the process. Then there is still that shower. And that arms deal. And the Scorpions. And buddy appointments. Our President should not be a member of any Political Party. He/she should be a principled person who can lead us to unity, prosperity and pride.

      Van - 2011-12-20 02:54

      Respect is EARNED. You don't just happen to be respected. We use the sign as indicated above when we talk about someone that is DOF.

  • malcolm - 2011-12-20 06:52

    Apparently they use the middle finger in an upright position to define the ANC.

      Juicecard - 2011-12-20 08:01

      And for the ANCYL they stick the finger in the butt

      Juan - 2011-12-20 11:11

      And you place your thumb between your index and middle finger to salute them

  • Cameronl - 2011-12-20 07:59

    hahahaha you cant blame them zuma, you asked for that one you chop. how you became president after the shower fiasco I will never know, surely the embarrassment alone would have been great enough to put you out of the race that time. corruption is so in these days

  • Piet - 2011-12-20 08:42

    They show a wondering peepee for zuma and fat cheeks and air that escapes the brain with a frowny face for the popo from limpopo.

  • Patsy - 2011-12-20 09:25

    If you don't want to look like an ignorant idiot - don't act like one then you won't be lampooned. And when your idiocy is shown up, don't moan about it. Take it like a man (?)

  • Jonathan - 2011-12-20 09:42

    Zuma wil go down in history as the Shower Head President of SA. He asked for it and he got it, now live with it. Respect is earned not demanded.

  • sh.fish1 - 2011-12-20 14:45

    ??? i will not speak

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