Friends and Friction: Mind your business, not the hype

Muzi Kuzwayo City Press columnist.
Muzi Kuzwayo City Press columnist.

STOP believing media analysts. The Helen Zille Twitter scandal will not affect black DA supporters, just as the so-called Zupta scandals have failed to unseat President Jacob Zuma. That is not abnormal. Instead, it is very consistent with the basic laws of marketing: people who love a brand, love it with their hearts and not their minds. Love is irrational.

This is the reason companies spend billions building their brands; they want an emotional connection with their consumers, an unbreakable bond that can withstand all reasonable arguments.

In politics, this bond has always been at the mercy of the mainstream media, which doubles as the funnel of thought. In apartheid South Africa, political leaders needed to romance a white journalist if they wanted their ideas to reach the people. Steve Biko had Donald Woods and Robert Sobukwe had Benjamin Pogrund.

The black consciousness movement and the Africanists refused to accept white people in their organisation, while the Freedom Charter alliance did. This attracted many white journalists, sympathisers and, more importantly, donors.

Many activists, such as Mosiuoa Lekota, who went to jail as black consciousness activists came back as charterists, for whom it was a little easier to raise money for legal defence and family support.

One Africanist activist who was facing a further 12 years in prison, after spending 10 years in jail, tells a story about how his attorney asked him if he didn’t want to switch sides so he could raise legal fees for the team of advocates. He refused, and that complicated matters.

In general, South African political leaders can be bought at rock-bottom prices, particularly where there is a large supply of free booze, young women and some easy cash. As they have no moral guiding ideology, they bend their rhetoric to suit the benefit. Many claim to be patriotic yet they have no self-respect and sacrifice the greater good so they can put their bums on the heated seats of German cars. They claim to love the soil but it only buries their legacy because they have no regard for the future of the young spirits that will ignite this land.

In the past few years we’ve seen how analysts continue to get everything wrong. They laughed at Donald Trump and never realised the resurgent wave of fascism that carried him. The media didn’t see Brexit coming until the morning of the results, and they certainly thought they had buried Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. He may be the prime minister-in-waiting.

New media has always favoured the underdogs. We will see the rise of new political ideologies in South Africa, and it will all happen outside of the mainstream. Social media is opening new opportunities for black businesses that now have new avenues to reach new customers without relying on expensive mainstream infrastructure.

As for the black people who are dependent on selling their wares or products of their brains to earn a living – black businesspeople – we need to avoid the mindless screaming matches that have become characteristic of South African debate and focus on building our businesses. It is not easy, and it was never meant to be, and too much effort is wasted on trying to disprove stupidity. The energy that is expended adds no value to anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help business move forward.

How disadvantaged are those who cannot separate the noise from constructive talk?

Do not put too much faith in our political leaders. History has shown that they are for sale. Believe in yourself and use the power of social media, victory is in sight.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.

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