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Sat Oct 25 16:30:33 SAST 2014

SABC is Missing the point

PHILANI NOMBEMBE | 20 December, 2012 00:06
SABC headquarters Auckland Park. File photo.
Image by: Tyrone Arthur © Business Day

SOUTH Africans are warming up to political satire, including heavyweight politicians who are availing themselves of a grilling by the likes of the razor-tongued Chester Missing.

The puppet on comedian Loyiso Gola's Late Night News (LNN) show is punted as the most "annoying and tempestuous puppet" in political commentary.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, DA leader Helen Zille and SACP leader Blade Nzimande have all fallen victim to Missing.

Veteran satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, famous for his stage character Evita Bezuidenhout, believes that political satire is in a "very healthy state".

"It must shock, it must startle and it must be sued by the president - then it is going in the right direction," said Uys.

"I think satire will always be safe as long as we have freedom of expression. Politicians are such an easy target because they work for us, we don't work for them. Now that we've got Cyril Ramaphosa it is going to be more fun."

But cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, said satire was hampered by gatekeepers at the SABC and politicians who felt that South Africans were not prepared for certain material.

ZANews, a puppet show he co-founded, was canned by the broadcaster after commissioning it for R1-million.

"We were told on three occasions that South Africans aren't ready for satire of this kind," Shapiro said.

"We have had a phenomenal ride over the last 18 years and, whatever pressures we faced, they haven't managed to shut us down." SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said while Shapiro was entitled to his opinion, the broadcaster had the right to make editorial decisions on programmes.

ZANews has found a wide audience on the internet.

Missing's handler, Condrad Koch, said the puppet had interviewed about 20 politicians on the show. He said LNN's "Afrocentric" approach to satire helped the show flourish.

"South Africans have the most incredible sense of humour. Say mshini wam to any group of South Africans and they will laugh."

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