/ 12 May 2009

Zapiro’s shower off Zuma’s head — for now

Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, has decided to temporarily detach the infamous shower from President Jacob Zuma's head.

Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, has decided to temporarily detach the infamous shower from President Jacob Zuma’s head.

Shapiro’s latest cartoon, published in Tuesday’s edition of the daily newspaper, The Times, shows Zuma sitting at his presidential desk with a dripping shower positioned above, rather than on, his head.

The shower, which has hitherto always been attached to Zuma’s cranium, has the words ”temporary suspension” tagged on it.

”I thought I will take stock of where we are and give the presidency a chance to get going,” Shapiro told the South African Press Association.

”Despite my misgivings about Zuma and despite my belief that it was wrong for the ANC [African National Congress] to have him as its presidential candidate, we all have to take stock of the reality that he is president of the country.

”So I said let’s see if I can do a gradual change — a little transition.”

Shapiro first used the shower image in 2006 after Zuma said during his rape trial that he had sought to prevent himself from contracting HIV by showering after having sex with his accuser.

Since then Shapiro has used the shower to portray a whole range of meanings.

”That shower has become far more than a reference to the ridiculous comment about HIV,” Shapiro said.

”It has also become a reference to his tendency to say odd things and behave slightly weirdly.”

Zuma has had no mercy from Zapiro’s pen. He was once depicted about to rape the female figure of Justice, while his political allies looked on.

Zuma launched legal action over that cartoon.

Shapiro said he had often come under intense political pressure to remove the shower from Zuma’s head, but added that that was not the case this time.

He said he made up his mind to raise the shower after experiencing the mood of optimism in the country since Zuma’s inauguration.

”On the morning of the inauguration, when I turned on the television, there was a sea of umbrellas.

”It seemed like there would be a huge downpour during the inauguration, but it didn’t work out like that.

”Later on things became fairly sunny. I thought that was fairly symbolic,” he said.

Shapiro said he had by then already completed his drawing for the Sunday Times which showed Zuma trying to forcibly remove the apparatus from his head.

”The punch line of that was ‘try being truly presidential and maybe the shower will fall off by itself’,” he said.

Shapiro used the shower as a lamp during the African National Congress’ Polokwane conference in 2007, when Zuma defeated Thabo Mbeki for the party’s presidency.

”I called it Polokwane power failures, which had a double meaning,” he said, referring the power blackouts South Africa was experiencing at the time and the loss of power by Mbeki.

He said his drawing on Tuesday had created an enormous amount of interest.

He had been receiving calls all day from people worried that the shower head might get lost for good.

Shapiro said he had been trying to have his satirical puppet show about South African politics broadcast, but that he had little hope for it.

The show, he said, ”may not be possible in this country at the moment”.

”The SABC [South African Broadcasting Corporation] commissioned a pilot which was meant to lead to a 12-part series, but it didn’t follow through.

”They have had very powerful people at the SABC who do not agree at all with the irreverence that we show towards politicians.

”There is a big difference in the amount of freedom we have had in print media, and the amount on the airwaves, particularly at the SABC.”

As for his cartoons, which he publishes in different newspapers four times a week, Shapiro said he would soon start picking up more subjects, such as opposition political parties.

”Even people that have been ANC supporters in the past [and are no longer] are not finding great replacements in the opposition,” he said. ”I don’t particularly like any of them.”

Shapiro promised, however, that the shower would be back on Zuma’s head if he did not measure up.

”All it is a temporary change. If he doesn’t perform or things go wrong, it will wang [sic] back on his head.” — Sapa