The F-word: Pundits’ egos will be their downfall

2013-06-10 10:00

We are in the age of easy narratives, where the punditry – a collection of men and women lucky enough to have guesswork, the easy distribution of blame and the capacity to create villains – makes up things everyone should ponder.

Half-truths and facts stripped away from the rest of the story are used as evidence of whatever narrative the pundit wishes we know about.

It cuts across the board.

When a plane does not arrive at an airport where the Bafana Bafana team is, this is seen by some as a mark of the football association’s incompetence, as it ought to have known somehow that the airline company will decide not to send their connecting flight.

In the criminal-justice space, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is the flavour of the month.

The poor conviction rates or cases that do not make it to court are examples of this body’s decline.

This used to be the police’s fault. They were poorly trained, fat, hardly literate and could not even drive.

Again, this is true, but the police, like the NPA, are but part of the criminal-justice cog that needs to work together for the efficient running of the system.

They cannot singularly be blamed or praised for what happens from the time a suspect is arrested and jailed.

A prosecutor once told me that she sometimes gets rape cases where the young woman, in fearing her parents or partner, would allege rape so she is absolved of her lapse of judgment.

Sometimes, cases are withdrawn by the complainants for a variety of reasons, including reaching out-of-court settlements and agreeing on other forms of restorative justice that do not include availing themselves to Roman-Dutch law processes.

Sometimes the NPA’s most trusted like Gerrie Nel, who successfully prosecuted Jackie Selebi, will make curious professional errors like forgetting to read self-confessed drug dealer and murderer Glen Agliotti his rights, or entering into plea bargains that allowed the druglord and murder mastermind to not spend a day in jail despite his confessions.

Sometimes what appear to be open-and-shut cases, like that of Andries?Tatane’s murder, are sabotaged by a combination of unreliable witnesses who change their testimony midway through the trial, or the so-called police code culture that makes it almost impossible to get cops to testify against their colleagues.

President Jacob Zuma has been trending since the rand jumped off a cliff after he spoke and said nothing the markets liked.

Given that the rand was along with other emerging currencies in a free fall, it must seem odd to blame Msholozi for this without explaining to ordinary South Africans what the link is.

Zuma is still president and the rand is on the rebound.

Should he be praised for its revival?

From where I sit, blaming Zuma for the rand’s precipitous fate is no different to attributing the rise of the sun to the cock or thanking the swallow for summer.

Analysis by its nature is neither true nor?false.

Audiences tend to exaggerate the thinking and writing prowess of a pundit they agree with, and unfairly dismiss the same from someone they have a different view from.

It requires that those who venture opinions display for their audiences a sense that they have been careful not to overwhelm them with their own subjective views, which they are free to have and share.

There was a time in human history when diviners, shamans, sangomas or those who were believed to have the gift others did not have of explaining today and foretelling tomorrow were at the centre of a community’s life, almost like what analysts enjoy today.

Their prestige and place declined as their ranks became ever populated by quacks who made a habit of making not-so-educated guesses.

If the punditry segment is not careful, it could easily suffer the same fate in a generation or two.

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