Redi Tlhabi

ANC's poverty porn parade a reflection of its detachment from 'the people'

2019-01-13 07:14
President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior ANC members during the party's 107th anniversary celebrations. (Tshidi Madia/News24)

President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior ANC members during the party's 107th anniversary celebrations. (Tshidi Madia/News24)

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Redi Tlhabi

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."

So begins Charles Dickens' historical novel, depicting lives affected by the conditions that led to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

It is as much about the intersection of the political and the personal as it is about the arrogance of power. And with this arrogance, comes distance and detachment. The gulf between those who lead and those who are led gets wider and wider. 

This has happened in South Africa. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact moment when the chasm was formed but daily utterances, decisions and conduct leave us in no doubt that the ANC, the party founded by venerated men such as John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Sol Plaatje, has taken its finger off the pulse of the nation. 

To commemorate its 107th year birthday, the ANC is out and about in KwaZulu-Natal, with many of its senior leaders visiting the aged, the poor, the homeless, the sick. They are all over social media, waxing lyrical about "our people". You would swear they do not live in the same country as those they parade in "photo opportunities". How else do you explain their orgasmic "look what I found?" articulations?

They are busy "discovering" and parading people who have been affected by their legacy of ineptitude, corruption, poor delivery and yes, detachment.

Where have they been that they did not know that the pictures they are posting are neither new, nor news?  

They are reflective of the daily grind and agony that shapes the lived experience of so many South Africans. It is one thing for celebrities and corporates to adopt this "we love the poor" roadshow, but for a political party that is in power to do the same is a tragic act of cognitive dissonance and detachment.

Their shameful act fires up my imagination of what our early colonisers – gallantly called "explorers" – must have done when they reached our bountiful and luscious shores: "Look I am so great, I discovered this place, it had no life and hope before I came along."

We know this not to be true. What is jarring about the ANC's conduct is that many of its leaders come from that same poverty. They know what it feels like to be erased and cynically revived to be used in a political game. They know the names of relatives and former neighbours who come from this life and are still stuck in it with no hope of respite. Or maybe they don't. 

They lived that life too, of being stateless, without the right documents. They once were those little girls who missed school because they did not have sanitary towels. How did they decide that it was prudent to display this vulnerability to the world, while simultaneously giving themselves a high five for being such saintly, good politicians? 

When former KwaZulu-Natal premier, former KwaZulu-Natal health MEC, former ANC treasurer general, current Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize posts a celebratory picture of a house not fit for an animal and tweets: "#GoodStory House found on door to door on ward 5 Georgedale. Sponsors have been found to help build a house for Gogo Khumalo who has lost her only child and now lives alone", he actually should be bowing his head in shame. What we should read from that is: "We have failed to identify and help vulnerable old women. We have failed to provide social housing and now after 25 years, we need sponsors to build her a decent house."

When former Gauteng housing MEC, former safety and security MEC, former Gauteng premier, former water affairs and sanitation minister, former communications minister and current Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane posts: "Listen! We were at a school called Mndosi…The sanitary towels are for deserving girls. The Vodacom goodies are for Grade R and lower primary kiddies. Go on armchair critics and passionate haters of Nomvula," we ought to worry. 

In that tweet, she personifies detachment. If she and her colleagues were working tirelessly for these schools, they would not need Vodacom. 

The desperate need for sanitary towels so that girls don't miss school is known globally. She behaves like she has just discovered the problem. It is civil society and some in the corporate sector that have tirelessly, over many years, campaigned for a tax break on and provided sanitary towels. So rich to join the train on your birthday!

And no ma'am, you are a public official. You will be critiqued on your work and actions. Forget the narcissistic obsession with "haters". Your job in public office comes with the necessary scrutiny. Nobody hates you.

As crazy as it sounds, this depraved PR campaign actually says: "We the party of the people, are celebrating our birthday by showing you what we, the government of the people, have failed for over two decades, to achieve." It is shameful.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    anc  |  politics
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