HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Election campaigns: South Africa needs more 'politricks'
We’re a funny country. In fact, I don’t think I have come across a nation which can turn a disaster into a joke faster than South Africans. We are a country of living and breathing memes, and our ability to spread a joke rapidly outnumbers the most top-of-the-range viral post since the birth of the more common internet meme.
Sure, our senses of humour vary. That’s the human condition, but our ideas and abilities to turn behaviour into something that is entertaining and its ability to change and evolve over time as it crosses the lines of culture and still remain funny is unstoppable.
Of course, there is a very deep and disturbing psychology behind why we find the need, or rather have to find the need, to laugh things off so much – especially intersectionally – and generationally this is a skill that has stuck and stood the test of time.
We won’t go into the dark arts of why we laugh to stop ourselves from crying because ironically, that is no laughing matter, but f&cking hell, we’re funny.
And nothing stirs the ever-boiling pot of humour in the bottom of our bellies more than the politics of this country. Sure, there are somethings we’re not allowed to laugh at, because it would be wholly ignorant of us to make fun of a politician’s mispronunciation of a word or an accent, for example – English is not their first language and why does everyone have to conform to Western standards? Why is that funny, we may ask?
But we all remember that time then President Zuma had to read out that number and fumbled over it harder than a toddler trying to hop from rock to rock across the ocean while trying to learn to tie his shoe laces. Side note: It happened several times.
Now one could argue that had he read the numbers in his mother tongue, he may have gotten it right and we should not make fun of him, or that it is no laughing matter. But honestly, that’s a moot point. It doesn’t matter. When someone says something as obviously nonsensical as 39 million, three thousand and sixty thousand, even the most mathematically inept will find this funny. In fact, if you Google “Zuma says…” the first automation that the search engine throws out is “numbers”. If you can watch any of these videos across cultures and races and different degrees of wokeness and not find it funny, there is something deeply, deeply, wrong with you. Are you even South African?
Politics and politicians are the gifts that keep on giving in our country. Their every move, every word, every action, every response, and every speech are just sitting there like perfectly teed up golf balls waiting to be whacked to the green, green grass of our humorous nation. Everyone has a swing to see how close to the flag they can get as possible. And no other event sets the ball up better than an election campaign.
Any. Local. Municipal. National. Whatever. You say election, we hear “National Roast”. You say political party, we hear “Stand up comedy”. And people, it is that time of year again and I am going to say two things I never thought I would say.
The first is: honestly, we have recycled poster jokes and funding jokes too much – they’re still funny, but come on, we can do better.
We have evolved, after all. We have been through so much. We have slept through the Zondo Commission, looted our way through a national emergency, laughed our way through a national vaccine rollout, and even been the butt end of the joke ourselves when once upon a time we were told that a.) HIV can be cured by eating beetroots or potatoes or whatever, or b.) That you could just shower the virus away.
We’re long past the election campaign poster joke. They’re daft. We know they’re daft. They’re unconvincing, they melt in the rain faster than political party promises and they are so goddamn cheesy and unconvincing. Sure, they will always remain a sitting target, and yes, the jokes are still funny, such as the conversations currently happening about the dumb-assery of the DA posters in Phoenix, Kwa-Zulu Natal, the site of a disturbing massacre which read: ‘The ANC called you racists, the DA calls you heroes’. More than race baiting, I can only assume these slogans were conceived by the probably Caucasoid advertising agency of Beavis and Butthead (they have since been taken down, by the way).
The second thing I never thought I would say is that the winner of the election run this year, in terms of sheer 'politricks' and humour stamina, is undoubtedly and without argument the DA ward councillor candidate in Cape Town for Bonteheuwel, one Mr. Angus McKenzie. This guy went above and beyond. He took clickbait to a whole new level when he released his 38-second campaign video clip
In it, McKenzie is a superhero of sorts who comes to the rescue of disappointed residents and helps fight crime and gangsterism. This man has received a lot of flack. The script is horrendous and involves his political party manifesto. The video is no work of art, but my god is it funny.
And while it’s easy for every other political candidate to take a stand against such utter ridiculousness, I ask only this of you: On behalf of the rest of South Africa, this is the content we want. Give us more. Who knows, we may laugh all the way to the polls. All 59 million 9 thousand hundred and 3 thousand and 31 of us. Or however you say the population number.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.