Sibongile Mafu

Distract me, dear Nkandla

2012-11-21 08:58

We get distracted too easily in this country. We’re like a toddler obsessed with a new toy, but the moment something seemingly shinier comes along, the old toy is recklessly discarded, never to be heard from again.

There are countless examples where the new distraction of the day effortlessly eclipses yesterday’s disturbance, as the news train continues on, churning out information we need to sift through and wrap our heads around. We live in a democracy, right? Our media needs to look busy.

The hot topic

Can we really be invested in issues that affect us when the news agenda shifts focus quicker than a Lady Gaga costume change? Or is the job of the media to just throw out as much information as possible, so we have a clear and solid foundation on which to base our precious anger on?

The current hot topic, amongst other mildly interesting ones, Nkandla, is a wonderful example of the shifting tides of focus within one issue. Nkandlagate is that great news story, the one that’s like a Christmas gift wrapped with enthusiasm - there’s always a sense that new things are unravelled or have to be unravelled constantly. When news broke about the president upgrading his compound, or to be safe, his “group of residences enclosed by a barrier,” for him and his nearest and dearest, we were mildly interested and just a little curious. “The Spear” had kept us busy for so long, that anything resembling “new” news piqued our interest. When we discovered that this homestead, or rather, “property with adjoining properties around it,” would allegedly cost the equivalent of ten Top Billing homes in Camps Bay, we were outraged.

The news had broken, and now a mad scramble for bigger, juicier pieces to the puzzle had begun. It was like someone had set off a gun at the beginning of the race, and the dash for the unforeseeable finish line was on. We were then moved to slight annoyance when the SABC’s Acting Head of News Jimi Matthews banned his staff from using “Nkandlagate,” “Zumaville,” “homestead” and “compound.” Jackpot. Finally! There was something to stir up “The Media, “get them excited, let them play around in the Freedom of Expression pool for a week or so, and give them some time to forget about the cost of That Place That Shall Not Be Named. The only thing worse than not being the first is not being able to use your words.

And the flame keeps on growing

Now it’s the R900 000 bond the president may or may not have with FNB that has everyone foaming at the mouth, and the excitement that comes with analysing the technicalities around that. Another log has been added to the proverbial fire, as the flame grows bigger and bigger. Sprinkle some DA visits and parliamentary drama in-between those incidents and you have the news saga of the year.

The race to see who the first to discover something new about Nkandla has almost surpassed the Nkandla issue itself. The incredible plot twists, errors, misunderstandings and empty holes  the reporting has served up over the last few months has become just as intriguing, perhaps even a little distracting. The constant search for news under rocks and gutters, confusing many citizens as to what to what is important and what really can be filtered.

Now we anxiously wait for Sunday to see what new piece of information we’ll be drinking in with our morning coffee.  I’m excited to see what the issue of the day will be. We can focus on the real issues later.
- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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