Zapping the Politicians!

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

After last week’s post about our regular Sunday Fisherman’s Arms social debate (see here), I got thinking about politics but in particular our bloody politicians. Whilst discussing the people who the group considered ‘influential’ in their life, it was argued that Nelson Mandela could be seen by some as a freedom fighter and by others as a terrorist

When you’ve been an avid observer of politics for any length of time, you start to notice how they (politicians) will do almost anything to get your vote. Then once they’re in power, will do just as much (if not more) to stop the electorate from getting rid of them again. I hasten to add I’m not including Mr Mandela in this category.

It’s more than twenty years since the South African authorities freed Nelson Mandela – a national (and now world) icon for the fight against political oppression – but what has changed? When I say ‘changed’ I’m actually referring to the world, as opposed to South Africa specifically however; SA is an example indicative of the problems within the greater political world.

In attempting the continuance of political change (after Mandela), South African satirists tried pulling the strings of political debate to make further progress along the road of reform. However, back in December 2010, the South African President Jacob Zuma filed a lawsuit against the cartoonist Zapiro and the South African Sunday Times for a controversial drawing of him published two years earlier (

Satireprimarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement…(

Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon. The type of desperate legal action (refered to above) is not exclusive to South Africa. Neither are they usually born out of purely political consideration, more the probable financial impacts involved for the individual bringing them… It says a lot about the politician who fears or tries to silence satirists.

The process continued with ZANewsa satirical tv puppet show screened mainly to the web, mostly due to National TV channels also fearing the content. The show is designed to poke fun, make people laugh (and cringe) at themselves, the Nation’s leaders and society as a whole. The contemporary puppet-based satire show is by no means a new idea. It is very reminiscent of the British television series Spitting Image which enjoyed great success during the Conservative-ruled era of the 80s and 90s.

But isn’t any form of  ‘constructive’ social criticism worthy? Just so long as it is informed and based upon the topics and issues affecting us all, where is the harm? Given that no individual, or indeed group of people like politicians, have all the answers all of the time, it is beholden upon us all to question that which we don’t agree with or don’t understand. After all, aren’t politicians supposedly elected to office to represent our views, needs and desires? Not theirs!

Those who purport to represent us, but actually work in a self-important and self-interested manner, deserve to have their seats warmed a little, if only to deflate their pomposity within the ivory towers of power. Keep zapping the politicians is what I say!

Jonathan Shapiro was born 1958 in Cape Town, he is a South African cartoonist famous as Zapiro, whose work appears in numerous South African publications and has been exhibited internationally on many occasions.

See also: BBC Audio slide show: Long walk to freedom – A small selection of the Nelson Mandela cartoon images by Zapiro.

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