The SABC is ducking a satirical R1-million television show it commissioned from cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, apparently on the grounds that South African viewers are not ready for it, writes Zara Nicholson in the Saturday Argus.

Last year the national broadcaster said it had not canned the show – but six months on, there has been no sign of it on the airwaves.

A 30-minute pilot video of Z News, along the lines of the controversial British show Spitting Image and featuring figures such as Jacob Zuma, Helen "Godzille" Zille, and Thabo Mbeki, was made by the SABC last year.

Now thousands of Facebook members are taking up the fight on behalf of Shapiro, who works under the pen-name Zapiro. Members say the time is right for such a show. The Zapiro group on Facebook has a whopping 12 000-plus fans while the Z News group has more than 5 000 supporters. Clips from the 30-minute show have been posted online on YouTube and Facebook .

One of the most popular is an Idols skit in which Mbeki does a rendition of I Will Survive in drag.

Shapiro has always been a fan of satirical shows and was approached 10 years ago by international producer Thierry Cassuto, whose idea it was.

Yesterday Shapiro told Weekend Argus: "We began the process a decade ago and did a three-minute video with one puppet, Madiba. We were hoping to use that to get support for the show, but it didn't materialise. I don't think anyone had the guts to do it.

"Then it started up again three years ago, when both the SABC and showed interest. It was the SABC – surprisingly and interestingly – which had the guts to say go ahead. A small, core group of people supported it … The SABC spent about R1m on a half-hour pilot over a year ago and it's just been crawling through the SABC corridors," Zapiro said.

"We have no faith that they are going to use this and we are really disappointed," he said, adding that "everyone knows the politics of the SABC are strange".

However, one of the people who backed the show, Pat van Heerden, head of entertainment at the SABC, said she had commissioned the pilot and pushed for it, and was "frustrated" it had not been aired.

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