Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

To shower or not to shower, that is our Zapiro

I think it is most appropriate that Zaps is removing the shower head from the president’s cranium, with the caveat that the removal may only be temporary, depending on performance. And as Zapiro (bless his satirical name) avows, it is not due to political pressure on the cartoonist.

If people are going to continually ridicule Zuma, that will undermine giving him a chance — and it must be a good chance — at leading our country out of a global mess and a local economical stagnation that is not of JZ’s making. The ridicule therefore impoverishes us all. Keeping him crowned with the shower head? At a subconscious level this prevents people from taking their president seriously when he is not even out the starting gate. We need to sincerely take this herd-boy turned president (formidable achievement) seriously but maintain vigilance, the eternal price of liberty. (On this note, I still stand by my recent blogs on evil, seek to find a template for the notion and wish to create awareness of evil around us.) As Michael Trapido commented in a recent blog announcing the Richmark Sentinel website, we need to start speaking to each other, not at each other. The distance created by such symbols of ridicule (include the showerhead) between peoples, races and different persuasions helps us make myths, or lies of one other.

Remember the old Coke adverts on pre-World War Two movies? Just insert a split-second image of Coca-Cola among the film frames and people were sublimated into drinking Coke. Or so the urban legend goes; I don’t know if it was ever conclusively proven that that underhand advertising was done. So taking away the showerhead takes away the now — contextually — irrelevant issues of the women in his past and his views on sex and preventing Aids. Otherwise hope for a better future is constantly subverted as we stagnate in International Arrivals, staring dumbly and helplessly at the increasingly irrelevant baggage coming back again and again.

“Play the ball, not the man”, has been the theme of late in several of the comments under my blogs and others. The country has decided who they want to lead and Zuma takes over in a time of huge global crisis. Simple question, who among us would want his job? I don’t. I once ran a branch office in Jo’burg and man that was pressure from above (the directors) and below (my managers and staff) so I can relate a teensy weensy to the huge responsibilities that now face President Zuma and his team. He needs team players, not unnecessary insults (yes, insults are sometimes necessary) and the baggage of the past constantly coming back again and again on the conveyer belt at International Arrivals.

We’re in International Departures now, firmly focused on the promised land, even though the path there may be turbulent. The first tangible result I want to see is a hugely successful World Cup 2010. I will be thrilled.

Of course, the way Zaps, with typical satirical ceremony, has removed the world’s most infamous showerhead, is notable. He has been prepping us for it over a couple of cartoons. Symbols and symbolic actions are powerful suggestions, and reverberate through the collective psyche of SA (to which I firmly belong, though I look at SA from China with slanted eyes) and the international audience. Removing this notorious icon can only have positive reverberations, which we sorely need.

And I, for one, hope never to see that showerhead again.

  • Andre Philander

    I lost any respect I had for Mbeki and his presidency with his stance on AIDS, I didn’t care if he did anything else that was positive.

    Why? Because we’re still at the center of an epidemic that kills people, destroys their dignity because they can’t work, provide for their families or leave children behind that can’t care for themselves. It would have been easy to gain my respect, just by saying, “I’m wrong, use a condom, anti-virals help you live longer and will keep you healthy.”

    When I first heard the media reporting on the shower incident I thought, honestly, they were wrong, because the man headed the AIDS Council. After that, anything he said, didn’t matter, his words are still killing people.

    No matter what he does, unless he says, “the only way not to contract the HIV virus, when you’re having sex, is by using a condom,” I will always consider him a failure as a leader.

    The shower head was not about ridicule, it’s a reminder of those contracting HIV or dying of AIDS.

  • Nhlanhla Khumalo

    It is about time he did that. I have no respect for that man. Even though he may be allowed the ‘freedom of speech’, he has become too big for his boots. The media tribunal talk by the ANC will be visited because of people like him. Zuma as President, might really have to be forced to take him to court, as undesirable as it might be. He needs to get over himself. He is not the best thing that hit print and online media.

  • mundundu

    having lived in countries where one becomes president via merit and not via direct deployment structures, it’s tough to have a positive view as to what constitutes “democracy”, south-african style. [hey, sandile — run the idea of a “constituency-based parliament” by your masters at luthuli house.]

    that said, i’m willing to give oom jake a chance. even though him getting it right means that my money turns to dust, since i’m paid in foreign currency and the rand will strengthen, it would be nice if my youngest son stayed in the country of his birth and left only because he wanted to see the world and not because of dire economic forecasts or political/social upheaval.

  • Paddy II

    Good call, Rod.

  • Penny

    Although, it is very hard to look at President Zuma without the shower head now. Zapiro is partly to blame for that (portraying him as such since his rape trial). Its hard to disregard all he has done and said before he became president.

    As you mention in your article, lets give him a chance.

  • alan gc

    How can anyone possibly pretend to support jz just because he has won the populist race. Apart from the 100’s of charges that were dropped for no good reason, he at best tolerated (at worst instigated) the buring of images of his allegeded rape victim outside court. If you can’t see his character in this… JZ is bad news for us all. Zaps is falling into the same charm “offensive” that the rest of the media is. JZ is a disgusting poke in the eye of all south africans, even those who voted for him. The showerhead is a fact of life, he thinks taking a shower will stop aids, just as the npa’s puppet show before the elections made him innocent. Sorry for him – guilty until proven guilty.

  • Prisha Bhoola

    I agree completely! After the inauguration ceremony – I knew it was time to call it quits. Hopefully, that showerhead has disappeared forever!

  • Themba Tantrum

    great piece…couldnt agree with you more..

  • Sandile Memela

    the socalled infamous shower is more in Zapiro’s head than in Zuma’s. Sometimes the role and impact of artists like cartoonist Zapiro on society is exaggerated. Perhaps we need a survey to determine the number of people who actually perceived or saw Zuma to have this imaginary shower on his head. The fact that Zapiro put it in his cartoons does not mean that it translated into people’s minds. Zapiro could have been fooling himself to think that he is so powerful as to have a magic bullet effect on society.

  • Ivan Moor

    That the present bunch will be caught with their fingers in the cookie jar is as inevitable as the changing tides. The rot is endemic to the system now, cannot be changed even were the will present.

    That they will continue to walk away, free, jubilant and prosperous is equally inevitable.

    You think you are on the doorstep of the promised land? You are delusional, it will be more of the same old, same old.

    Leopards do not change their spots, thieves do not become choir boys, especially if they hold the keys to the bank vaults in their greedy clutch.

  • Edwin Matlapeng

    Fair point. I just want to discuss this so-called vigilant press under whose banner Zapiro would categorise himeslf, even satire, for that matter. President Obama, then Senator, was satired in a New York magazine in the Oval office with his wive, Michele in guerilla attire with ammo around her neck and an AK47 in her hand. President Obama was wearing an Eastern native outfit and a picture of Osama bin Laden was hanging on the wall with the American flag in flames in the fie place as they were fist-bumping. This cover caused a commotion in the United States! Compare the outrage resulting from that from all over America with the response to Zapiros’s persistent ridicule of Zuma, who was also technically campaigning. You cannot tell me there is no vigilant media in America. But there they have a sophisticated media which understands the balance between how they portray themselves and how the public perceives and receives them. Something I think people here take for granted because Black are supposed to be stupid! When the public ignores the media’s discredited and racist discourse we are labelled as people who vote along party lines! It is mentioned in this online publication today somewhere today, the media has become irrelevant and out of touch in SA. Poeple like Zapiro have a lot to do with it. Frankly, I do not know who takes his racist satire seriously!!

  • Bongo

    Zapiro is an irrellevancy and a racist.He was under the misguided impression that through his cartoons he will be able to persuade the masses not to vote for Zuma! I have no respect for Zapiro because he with certain editors allocated themselves the right as opposition parties against the ANC! I have never seen Zapiro ridicule any opposition leader with such vigour as with JZ! The court cases against Zapiro should continue!

  • Benzol

    Agree, the shower head has become obsolete or just an historical reference which many people have lost in moving forward.
    Yes, shadows of doubt hang over the man but he is “Mr President” whether you like it or not. Compare that to a King/Queen in a monarchy. The man in the street has no say in the matter and…do they have a chequered history in their royal families!
    @Ivan: “Leopards do not change their spots, thieves do not become choir boys, especially if they hold the keys to the bank vaults in their greedy clutch” …..right, now what do you want to do about it?
    Shall we try to move forward in a positive mood and keep a watchful eye while we move?
    Or..shall we move forward while constantly looking over our shoulder, missing the turn off in the process?
    The choice is yours!

  • mundundu


    constantly mocking someone for saying “i took a shower to wash off the aids” is not being racist. it is mocking him because he is stupid. president bush was consistently mocked for his malapropisms throughout his terms, and biden is often mocked for his long-windedness.

    in a country with more hiv+ people than any other on earth, largely due to the lack of action by the then-in-power administration, such a statement should be mocked non-stop. of course, the greater problem is that zuma did [does?] not have the self control to, oh, not have unprotected sex with a woman that he knew to be hiv+ in the first place.

    there’s no similarity to the cover of the new yorker.

    as a parent of a teenage boy, i was horrified that the head of the aids council would say such a thing. when my son repeated it, i was so angry that… let’s say that what i wanted to do would land me in jail for a very long time.

    that there are so many people defending the statement and against the mockery just underscores how sick this country is. i’m very glad that my son will have the option to leave and not come back when his education is complete.

    now, i’d like him to stay and become a part of the future, we need well educated black people in this country — but a society this sick is nearly beyond repair.

  • Dave Harris

    Edwin Matlapeng, those are excellent observations. I think Zapiro certainly crossed the line trying to justify his despicable gang-rape cartoon as satire.

  • Steve Woodhall

    I think Rod is absolutely right. Plus, Jon has not scrapped the showerhead… it’s still in his desk drawer in case JZ starts to develop unsavoury tendencies as Prez. Like all South Africans, I hope he doesn’t. Let’s give the guy a chance!

  • Tebogo

    @ Cracking China

    May you please help me find where zapiro provoked debates without using the ANC or their presidents notably President Jacob Zuma!

    “We need to sincerely take this herd-boy turned president”: Your tone is is very disrespectful and undermining but who CARES, is your opinion, the constitution our Republic afford you that through freedom of speech and media freedom!

    Why should the removal of the shower from the President warrant column in various newspaper? Was Zapiro’ s stunt media agenda, that of course failed!

    a)Zapiro and creativity??

    b)Zapiro and the ANC???

    c)Zapiro and Jacob Zuma???

    Which one made him a Millionaire??

  • Rod MacKenzie

    Edwin – you are back to the old, tiresome race card again. If I tell my white friend Mike he is being an idiot that’s because he IS acting like one. If I tell my black friend Siphiwo he is being an idiot then I am a racist and he is NOT acting like an idiot even though he is. Zapiro has cartooned loads of people of different races.
    Sandile Memela – “The fact that Zapiro put it in his cartoons does not mean that it translated into people’s minds”… how on earth can you prove that? To state the obvious, the image of the shower head IS in a lot of people’s minds, as a metonym for JZ’s remarks about AIDS and sexual hygiene. Look at the death toll. Do a survey. Ask the relatives of the dead.

  • ian

    I’ll keep saying it till I am blue in the face. Please go and look at the list of people of people that are included in Zapiro’s cartoons. Its very easy to do – in the MG, click on any cartoon, then look to the right hand side. Anyone who is in politics in SA (and parts of the rest of the world) is there. So thats white, black etc.
    So why when Zuma is depicted is it suddenly racist satire? What is it when Pik Botha, FW or PW is depicted? Is that democratic satire?

  • Edwin Matlapeng


    frankly, i have no problem with our president being attacked on issues. in fact, you may have noticed how moeletsi mbeki castigates his brother. that is anc influence not what they learnt at home playing marbles!

    anyway, the point i want to make is how the media have taken a failed rape case and turned it into an aids/shower issue to humiliate zuma and black voters. the intended message here is clear, ‘black people cannot see through this corrupt, ignorant leader who even after chairing…’.

    we should be left to ponder a bleak future given the internal politics in the anc to consider voting for the da so as to prove we vote on issues! when has the da proclaimed anything in the interest of black people. back to the point, the shower has nothing to do with aids or zuma’s judgement.

    the key issue is with the rape charge dropped, the shower is now the indirect reference to the failed rape case to humiliate the man and put him in his place. that is the purpose of the shower/zille’s insults/constant ref to rape by media. guess what, we, blacks, can see that!

    Edwin Matlapeng

    it is no rocket science that our media is not driven by the principle of checking on government perfomance, critically reporting on it with a view to improving government. not at all and fantasizing that to be the reality is downright naive!

  • Mallencolly


    Bongo, instead of commenting from a point of ignorance, please do everyone a favour and have a look at Zapiro’s entire published portfolio of cartoons. You will probably enjoy his cartoons from before 1994 and you will see just how relevant and even handed he has been throughout his entire career. His treatment of the likes of PW Botha, etc is exactly as harsh as his treatment of Zuma et al.

    Your claims of him being racist show nothing other than your own ignorance of either the meaning of the word or Zapiros work.

  • Mallencolly

    @Edwin Matlapeng

    See my comment to Bongo

  • Phillipa Lipinsky

    @ Sandile Memela “Sometimes the role and impact of artists like cartoonist Zapiro on society is exaggerated”. I couldn’t agree with you more. Zapiro is just like any other artist whose main priority is to make as much money as he can. He is the sweetheart of SA media and just because he drew controversial cartoons during the Apartheid days suddenly he is elevated to an Apartheid hero. How absolutely hilarious! He is nothing special and quite frankly, overrated.

    Oh and Rod, I managed to browse through your article. I don’t want to be accused of ignorance with regard to what you or Sarah Britten write about yourselves even though I must admitt that I only read about 5% of your articles so I can’t possibly know everything about you (or anyone on this sit) as you formerly indicated that I should. Believe it or not, bloggers are not celebrities; sometimes we read their blogs out of curiosity but oftentimes oout of boredom.
    The standard of this site began to deteriorate with the exodus of the likes of Ronald Suresh Roberts, Pierre de Vos and such people but there are still some good people on board. I would advise thoughtleader editors to consider imposing strict regulations when admitting people to write here. They must be THOUGHLEADERS for crying out loud, not every Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Much love,

  • Sipho

    Zapiro is over rated by his own community. I chuckled the first time I saw the shower head but when Zapiro’s community decided to adopt it as a political weapon, it ceased to be funny. It reflects badly on Zapiro than on Zuma, and it’s him who needs to save face. I’m sure this blog is meant to give Zapiro that window of opportunity to retreat with some respectibility.

  • ian

    Don’t you think the shower head represent the madness of the a supposed leader thinking a quick splash of water would wash potential infection away? not so sure it was meant to represent the alleged rape of the lady in question, but the sheer idiocy of thinking a shower would be ok after the fact?
    What are Zille’s insults? That potentially he exposed his wives to HIV? How is that an insult? He knowingly slept with a HIV positive woman, sans condom. I very much doubt he uses a condom with his wives. Its not that farfetched to imply he has exposed his wives to HIV. Thats neither insulting or racist. Simple statement of fact.

  • japes

    What do they say “The truth hurts” and obviously hurts the sensitive most. I like Jacob Zuma; I don’t suport the tripartite blob; they are packed to the gills with people way more corrupt (Yengeni) and incompetent (Manto, Erwin, Blade) than JZ’s manipulated little shananigans.

    I suggest that JZ should casually let his supporters that rabidly attacke Zapiro know that, like many, many other politicians in the free world, cartoons are part of that freedom and they don’t worry him one jot. He’s got work to do and when you do things (rather than nothing), it’s fodder for news, cartoon, comment, etc etc. Big people can live with this.

    Same for Zille; don’t be distracted, move on, get to work.

  • jed

    Satire is vital to us, but we don’t all know it yet: It’s important for us in a democracy to keep ridiculing, belittling and attacking the powerful – it brings them down to size and reminds us all of what they really are: Civil servants paid for by the taxes of the people.

    If you hold high office, you’d better watch your conduct carefully, and Zuma deserved the showerhead. After all, he did make one of the most ill advised and irresponsible statements in political history. In fact, it made him internationally famous. Fair game, Zapiro!

  • Edwin Matlapeng

    @ ian,

    big picture. the big picture, sir.

    you are not addressing my assessment. tell me my assessment is wrong on its merits, not your interpretation of what was said but my interpretation.

    with respect.

    edwin matlapeng

  • Edwin Matlapeng


    i have made my case clear. on the merits of my observation, i stand by what i say. you are not saying anything to back up your case save for what is on your article. i cant come here to read and suppress my interpretation to soothe your conscience!

    also, the potential in forums like these is that one day, maybe, after we got through the clatter of name calling, we can be ourselves instead of mouth pieces of political and ideological predispositions. this is part of the difficult discourses we are afraid to have in person because of remnant shame and guilt. this must happen more openly and people must deal with the past. so far, it comes across in violence, road rage, hate speech (especially forums like these), etc. but it MUST happen…

  • Rod MacKenzie

    @ Phillipa – can I ask you to stop using salutations like “Much love”? It’s so cringeworthy. And with regard to you not figuring out that Sarah Britten is not a full time writer and figuring out she is in the ad world, you are jiust making sloppy excuses for sloppy reading. She makes it abundantly clear. I have seen you make comments ON blogs where she makes it clear she is in the ad world and unemployed. ADD?
    Edwin Matlapeng – you write too irresponsibly.Are you including me in your thoughts on hate speech?

  • Rod MacKenzie

    ian on May 15th, 2009 at 5:55 pm – thanks and why is it that some people cannot see the excruciatingly obvious, ie your comments? All you say is such common sense, so much so that I would be almost embarrassed to write what you say (and that is not insulting you)? What is going on that people have to intellectualise things to the point where you cannot see the woods for the trees?

    A good definition of the “dispersal of information” is truly the imparting of concocted, entrophied knowledge with a partisan, ideological bias.

  • Edwin Matlapeng


    if you want me to refrain from counter arguing your points, just say so. you will not be the first one. on the other hand, integrity is achieved. it is not a birthright. tell the truth, my friend and stop pandering to the fearmongering desires so ubiquitous in the right wing psyche you so expouse. zuma is evil, nogal…

  • Rod MacKenzie

    Edwin – I cannot respond to everyone as I dont have the time or perhaps no inclination. I find your “assessments” as you call them, confused, rambling, directionless ans too much emphasis on the race card instead of genuine dialogue. So I dont want to engage with you. I also feel other commentators, like Mallencolly and Ian, have responded and more or less said what I wanted to say. I also responded to you on Alex Matthews latest blog about the ANC savaging the DA’s western cape constituency. I refuse to take you seriously. If you are not big enough to handle that, so be it.
    As you read TL you will notice some bloggers NEVER respond to commentators. I am not obliged to and it is no comment on integrity, just a lack of interest.