BUSANI NGCAWENI: 'Money Heist' and the tragicomedy of our times
It was all set. The biggest money heist in the world; bloodless, thought-out, execution diligence.
Led by a smart ‘professor’, a two hundred plus million euros heist from the mint. They took control of the money factory so they could run the money machine and print as much as they wanted.
Fatigued from books and all the COVID-19 science, it was time to bow to pressure and sign-up for internet television.
And the first series I watched was Money Heist.
WATCH: Money Heist trailer
The irony, or is it parallels, between what ought to have been a perfect money heist, bloodless, executed with perfect diligence and precision and what is happening in South Africa today were glaring.
Well, until the folly of being human overcome the some of the protagonists and the weaklings in the entire operation. They get entangled in romantics.
It all seemed perfect, a thriller, a carnivalesque of creativity, epic script writing with likable thugs who appeal to the hearts of the viewers.
Like the events of the dying days of July in our country, the theatre is open square, entrance is free and the whole public is watching.
It all looked complex, yet so basic. You know what’s going on inside: pick a multi-disciplinary team, get the tools and pounce when least suspected.
At the cliffhanger of the series, the protagonist asks his apparatchiks “what holds us together?”
They talk of soccer, sex, three-sums and orgies. Wrong! They all conclude that it’s money.
This binds together the hostages (the public in our case) and the heist operatives.
As it would subsequently play out in successive seasons, the mint workers join in with the heist kings and go on to rob other banks.
The lead detective is entangled in a love web with the professor, the king of the heist, the obsessive co-leader of the rescue mission and the ex-husband who leads the forensic department.
What a complexity, stuff of black swans. It's a good series, at least the thieves sweat for the money. They plan and deliver on their objectives.
And there is an Arturo Román, the mint manager who impregnated his secretary who later had sex with a thug during the hostage drama, what a jerk this Arturo is, he never keeps quiet.
As we see in our political life, the professor had a predicament: to be safe he had to kill the mother of the lead detective he had fallen in love with, so that he could survive. As his poison sets in on her tea which spills, she politely tells him “you seem like a good man. I can see it in your eyes.”
She is happy her daughter is getting laid after a dilapidating divorce with a colleague who leads the forensic department.
Isn’t that what the voters think of all of us in South Africa, that we seem like good men? And they vote and vote again, heist after heist.
This is a tragicomedy of our times, of money, conspicuous consumption, murder, indifference and “leadership”. All whilst the body bags pile.
The professor’s life revolved around one central idea: resistance. He wouldn’t let go, even as he faced danger. He, like our tender men, are driven by the idea of reward which is greater than the risk of prison.
And the irony is, the forensics combing evidence together wore medical attire, personal protective clothing! No one in the series enters the crime scene without PPE.
Will PPE be the arms deal of our times?
The heist in the _Money Heist _and the heist in COVID-19 are similar in proportions. They are both huge. In impact they are not the same. The COVID-19 social impact is the greatest, devastating in all manner conceivable, erosion of public trust, rise in infection rates as PPE doesn’t come on time, lives lost, political careers in ruin.
At least in Money Heist the protagonists care about public sympathy and set off to do all they could to retain it, from feeding hostages to caring for their safety. Here in our country the hostages of COVID-19 heist enjoy no sympathy. They are on their own.
What a tragedy!
Busani Ngcaweni is co-editor of 'We are No Longer at Ease: The Struggle for #FeesMustFall'. Follow him on Twitter: @busani_ngcaweni