What if?...

2014-05-20 00:00

OKAY, so I’m a realist. I know the subject matter of this column is pure fantasy, but let’s just suspend our disbelief and play “what if?”. If you’re game, then read on.

The ANC and Jacob Zuma have just won the national elections with 11 436 921 votes and a 62,15% majority. That’s a lot of people rooting for him, looking up to him and having a fair amount of respect for him.

What if the president used this aspect of his immense popularity to influence people to band together and better our country, as I believe a true leader should do?

What if the president adopted a “message to the people” campaign for each month he was in office; something that could be run by the great public-relations machine he employs, but had him as the face of that campaign?

I am imagining a TV screen. Zuma’s face appears. He’s smiling, looking friendly and charming. “Hello,” he beams. “I am President Jacob Zuma, the president of the most beautiful country in the world. I want us to work together to keep this the most beautiful land in the world, so we can attract revenue from tourism and big economic investment, and make it the place we believe our children deserve to inherit from us one day.” The screen changes and we see sweeping savannahs teeming with wildlife, majestic mountains, abundant farmland, modern cities, hi-tech infrastructure, the Rainbow Nation — you get the picture. That’s the introduction. Then each month the advert changes.

So the first month, would see the president bemoan the fact that his country is filthy. He would beseech his citizens to clean up their act, telling them their tax money can be better spent on building new houses and clinics — and employing people to build and staff them — rather than hefty cleaning bills. He would suggest that a person who litters is one who has no respect for his or her fellow citizens. Screens would show a littered grimy street, then flash to a smiling man, picking up a plastic bag and a Coke can, and dropping it in a bin. The camera could stay focused on the street as others follow suit until the street is spotless. Cut to Zuma, beaming with pride.

The second month could see Zuma in a stern mood. He would tell us that the country is suffering under the scourge of cable theft. We would see shots of people losing their jobs as their employers fold, unable to sustain a business that is constantly targeted; we would see areas blacked out because thieves have stolen the electricity cables. Zuma would say that those who are stealing cables are jeopardising the economy. He would say they are taking the food from their children’s mouths and sabotaging business and the jobs of their brothers and sisters.

In the third month, Zuma could take men to task. He could tell them to stop behaving like beasts towards women. We could have pictures of the Modimolle Monster, the Sunday rapist or other convicted rapists, women beaters and murderers. Zuma would tell our men to man up and behave or face jail. The screen could display helplines for abused women; we could even see pictures of the aforesaid Monster, sitting miserably in his jail cell.

In the fourth month, Zuma could focus on drinking and driving and alcohol abuse. He would urge his countryfolk not to imbibe and drive, and encourage them to get a sober friend or taxi to drive them. He would tell parents to feed their families before wasting their money on drink.

In the fifth TV advert, Zuma could tackle rhino poaching. He would tell people not to be complicit in the illegal trade of rhino horn. He would laugh at claims that rhino horn is a wonder drug or aphrodisiac. He would say that those involved in the trade are no longer welcome to be citizens of this country.

These adverts must become talking points discussed at work, in the taxi and over the dinner table. They should not only be a list of prohibitions, but should also be a rallying cry to make this country a better place to live in.

In my mind’s eye, I see people responding eagerly to the call for action, our Witness showing photos where the streets are cleaner, with fewer stories about cable theft, rhino poaching and arrests for drinking and driving. Women and children can walk on the streets, safe in the knowledge that the president and his men respect women too much to violate them.

The list of topics for the president to address is endless: rape of the elderly, crime in general, saving electricity, not wasting water, recycling and carbon footprints, animal welfare, growing our own food, not buying stolen goods, racism, white-collar crime, personal debt and saving, helping registered charities, greening our environments, the importance of ubuntu and planning smaller families to ease the considerable pressure of overpopulation on the country’s precious resources.

Come on Mr President. Use some of that influence to help us create a country we are really proud of and that we feel happy to leave to our precious children and grandchildren.

• Stephanie Saville is the news editor at The Witness.


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