Next year is going to be dominated by the general elections – and it’s going to get weird, not that it hasn’t been strange already.
We’re a young democracy, but we’ve already become used to competing narratives, fake news to borrow from the luminous orange one and bizarre counter narratives and blame shifting first gifted to us by Bell Pottinger and then perfected by an array of individuals who in truth shouldn’t be allowed to cross the road without an adult holding their hands.
It’s not unique to us, in fact it’s so prevalent there’s even a term for it; post-truth or post fact. It’s like a perversion of the old riddle: “if a tree falls in the middle of the forest and no one was there to see it fall, did it make a sound?” In the post fact era, it’s mutated to “I don’t care what the evidence is – if it doesn’t gel with what I believe, I’m just not going to believe it.”
It’s something that exists precisely because of the echo chambers of social media with enough people all believing the same thing, reinforcing one another. So, you can have a commission of inquiry into state capture the one moment and then a provisional ANC party list nominating Jacob Zuma. It’s the kind of society where the EFF can issue a Christmas greeting exhorting its members to find the Christ in themselves without a twinge of guilt that their own leaders rendered swathes of poor Limpopo investors bereft of anything but a manger to lay their weary heads on every night for the foreseeable future after the plunder of VBS bank.
No one’s unscathed. It’s amazing the DA can get from one traffic light to another without shooting itself in the foot – if it’s not tearing itself apart with its internecine internal battles it’s scoring spectacular own goals.
All this is happening before the actual electoral battle even begins. Even before that there’s the low intensity nomination list war – on all sides – to see who wins the golden ticket to the Willy Wonka chocolate factory that is Parliament; the one place where salaries are not just guaranteed, there are very healthy perks too and there’s not much of an educational bar to entry as we saw this year.
Even Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the erstwhile His Master’s Voice of the SABC, fancies his chances. It’s unlikely he’ll find uBaba there if he gets the 40 000 odd votes he needs as an independent, because Zuma’ll have to forego his president’s pension and perks – and he’s looking increasingly cash-strapped thanks to a couple of court judgements this year.
There’s going to be a lot of competition to get on those lists and there’s going to be even more competition to get into power – to stay one step ahead of the reinvigorated state agencies and all the commissions of inquiry, more of which will begin next year. There’s a lot to play for in the next five months. Things could get a lot weirder – and bloody too.
Originally published on 29 December 2018 in the Saturday Star