Happiness is … a rubber Zuma stress ball

Zuma, like a rubber ball, will always bounce back. (Stressheadz)

Zuma, like a rubber ball, will always bounce back. (Stressheadz)


I don’t know why I ever bothered with stress balls that are not shaped like human heads. The makers of stress balls don’t have much choice, I guess, because their product is called a ball and many children – and some parents – already have human stress balls in the shape of Barbie doll heads. So bless the toy makers who came up with stress balls shaped like the heads of President Jacob Zuma, Premier Helen Zille and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

I came across the Stressheadz in a gift shop the other day and carried out my civic duty by mangling Zuma’s head, despite a strong dose of white guilt coursing through my veins.
(What would tourists think if they saw a white man crush a black man’s skull in broad daylight?) Zuma kept smiling, though, apparently very happy to have his head removed from both body and reality.

Unsatisfied, I put the head down and then it struck me: Why not do some research and simulate the current political climate to see how the president would react to pressure in a controlled environment?

I started with state capture and pressed down on the doll from above expecting it to hold up like an egg would. Surprisingly, Zuma’s face scrunched into an expression that said: “I’m swimming in a pool in Dubai, burning my head, while back home my country is going up in flames.”

A small girl approached. White guilt pushed up into my chest again. I reached for the Zille doll in an effort to even things out but she didn’t even notice, neither acknowledging my focus on equality nor condemning my disrespect for our politicians.

When she left, I pressed my index finger into the bottom of Zuma’s head to simulate pressure from within. Our head of state looked like he might split in two. His head tilted back and his eyes glazed over – if that is possible on a rubber doll – in an expression that said: “I don’t know where this pressure’s coming from but it’s getting intense – I might burst, but I’m so glad I’m made of rubber.”

I felt a little sorry for him, but turned him on his side and pressed down hard to set up a scenario of the opposition applying pressure from the flanks. This was the most effective crunch yet. Zuma’s head caved in at both temples as he bit down on his teeth. The Zille and Malema heads looked mightily pleased to see their nemesis in so much pain.

According to the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, there is no consciousness without pain, which didn’t show in my research at all, because no matter how much pressure he was under Zuma kept up appearances with a look on his face that said: “Ignorance is bliss, wish you we’re here ... I don’t know why they made the gap in my teeth look like there’s one missing.”

I put the head back in its box, happy with the experiment’s results (conclusion: Zuma, like a rubber ball, will always bounce back) and considered buying the Zille head, but hesitated wondering how it would look to pick the only white head, even if my intention was just to press its face into the wall.

So I just stood there watching the heads watch me. They looked happy. Detached. It stressed me out. I wanted to buy them all and destress all the way home but there were three heads, which would have cost an arm and a leg ... plus, I only had two hands. 

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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