About Us

ZANEWS is a satirical puppet show.

Read our FAQ for the deets.

Whose idea was ZANEWS anyway?

It all began in 1997 when producer Thierry Cassuto and award-winning cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) decided to produce their first puppet of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

‘Madiba’ then featured in a two-minute clip along with guest-starring footage of puppets from the UK’s hit satirical show Spitting Image (which ran between 1984 and 1996) and Les Guignols (the hugely popular French version running since 1988).

This first rudimentary ZANEWS video created with the assistance of Jeffrey Fineberg, of the original Spitting Image team. Fineberg helped with the complex latex process. South African puppet specialist, Gary Friedman, manipulated the puppet while Jonni Cohen directed the clip.(back to top)

How did it start?

In 2007, the producers approached both the free-to-air channel, eTV and the public broadcaster, the SABC, with the hope that ZANEWS would be aired nationally.

Original feedback was positive, a full pilot episode was commissioned but the show was clearly viewed as too risky politically and was veto-ed by the SABC board (and a mysterious invisible hand).

Not to be TKOed by the first blow, the producers managed to convince low-cost airline, Kulula, to sponsor the show and the first season was launched on the ZA News website and YouTube.

The first episode began with a bang featuring prominent figures Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema and Helen Zille and scoring over 50 000 hits on YouTube to date. (back to top)

How are the puppets made?

Watch our awesome video here to have a look. The characters are based on Zapiro caricature sketches that are then moulded into clay marquettes to be set as latex heads. Each character’s distinguishing features are emphasized in the manner as they have been in Zapiro’s cartoons.

The characters consist predominantly of South African politicians with a number of international celebrities and sports personalities, namely individuals that would be likely to feature in the general news, the show is therefore structured as such. Justice Malala and Debora Patta are news anchors, assisted by a ‘Puppet Nation ZA’ team of investigative journalists and special sports and entertainment correspondents.

Some of the politicians and celebrities that feature include Barack and Michelle Obama, Oscar Pistorius, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Khulubuse Zuma, Steve Hofmeyr, Helen Zille, Jacob Zuma, Bheki Cele, Benni McCarthy, Peter de Villiers, Julius Malema, Robert Mugabe, Bill Clinton, Patricia de Lille, Thabo Mbeki, Winnie Mandela, Zwelinzima Vavi, Gwede Mantashe, Blade Nzimande, Desmond Tutu, Nelson, Khanyi Mbau, Tokyo Sexwale, Gareth Cliff, Lady Justice, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

Separated from the news show are the regular Tata and Tutu sketches which involves Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu discussing the events of the day but also offering their unique wisdom and humour about these current events. (back to top)

How does ZANEWS fund itself?

While ZANEWS Network is run as a business, it is not profit-driven. Our funding is drawn from various grants, rebates and sponsorships. These are from Both Worlds, the South African Department of Trade and Industry, The Open Society Foundation and Africa Technology and Transparency Initiative. Some commercial revenue is derived from the sale of the ZANEWS on Top weekly programme to TopTV and DVD retail sales. (back to top)

Why is ZANEWS not on TV?

Our sixth season half-hour show is broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays on StarOne, a channel on StarTimes (previously known as TopTV). The rest of the channels don’t have the balls yet.

In 2012 we launched ZANEWS Network, a one-stop satirical portal for satire in the country. The site hosts the ZANEWS daily videos as well as columns, cartoons and other writing. Columnists include Ben Trovato, Tom Eaton, Siyanda Panda and Ndumiso Ncgobo, Chester Missing. (back to top)

How do you get the crazy ideas?

The politicians and life in general are crazy, not us. We get our ideas from the world around us as well as the general news cycle as it happens. We are, suffice to say, never short of material.
Our writers, Tom Eaton, Ben Trovato, Donovan Graham, Gretchen Van Der Byl and Thierry Cassuto chase the real-time news cycle to produce four shows that include 16 news items, a weekly “big” interview and sports and entertainment round-ups.

Ideas for some of our spoofs and sketches come from the ads we see on TV, music videos, films and TV series. (back to top)

Why should I support ZANEWS?

Because we’re socially conscious, well informed, very funny and committed to the ideals of free speech and constitutional democracy.
Because we eat politics for breakfast and believe the best way to consume it is to break it all down and laugh about it.

Because we support and believe in South Africa, South Africans and the young and boisterous democracy we have brought to life. Because our writers, producers, directors and filmmakers move quick and fast, we can see around political corners and are usually ahead of the news curve.

Because our politicians think no one’s really watching and because the gleaming edge, cold edge of satire is a great leveler in the power game.

Because our team, which consists of a mix of veteran journalists known for their social conscience and our young team of comedy writers, are not beholden to anyone but satire.

We operate with the motto “because here we can”. We believe in free speech and are not afraid to take hostages. Because we believe we can be bigger and better and service a much wider section of the diverse South African community.

Because really, we are very, very funny. (back to top)

Who are some of the names behind ZANEWS?

Our advisory board includes Nomfundo Walaza (CEO of the Desmond Tutu Foundation) on behalf of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Ravi Naidoo (Founder and CEO, Interactive Africa and Design Indaba), Branko Brkic (Founder – Editor, The Daily Maverick), Khaya Dlanga (blogger, columnist, social media), Raenette Taljaard (University of Cape Town, Public Policy Lecturer, Commissioner at the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa) and Dr Dario Milo (Partner, Webber Wentzel law firm).

Our voice artists include some of the country’s top comedians and actors including Aggrey Lonake, Nik Rabinowitz, Nikki Jackman, Adam Behr, Louw Venter and Mamello ‘MumZ’ Makoene. (back to top)

Who owns ZANEWS?

Both Worlds Pictures PTY LTD, a South African-based media production house. (back to top)

Why we need to expand?

ZANEWS has unique brand equity in South Africa and it is time for us to build on this brand to reach a wider audience. Season Five of ZANEWS saw the launch of the online ZANEWS Network, a “one-stop” satirical portal. Content includes original material as well as curated cartoons, opinion pieces from well-known comedy/satirical writers, user-generated material as well as a daily Internet version of the ZANEWS show.

South Africa has eleven official languages and while we use smatterings vernacular in some of these, our shows are mostly in English at present. For season six, we intend to introduce an entirely new dimension; a show entirely in vernacular and which we hope will encourage and draw a wider audience to our brand of humour. (back to top)