How do you manage bad news, or no news? If you’re Ace Magashule, the secretary general of the ANC, schedule your press conference for exactly the same time that M-Net’s flighting the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan and Prince Harry.
Forget for a moment that the interview had already run in the US about 18 hours before or that you’d need the pile cream being advertised during the marathon and massively commoditised binge to sit through it; the truth was that there was no other show in town.
Maybe that’s what Ace had in mind, when he chose precisely that time to announce that the Top 6 had virtually met with Jacob Zuma, only to be told six hours later that the Nkandla Crooner was still trying to game the Zondo Commission with his lawyers.
Perhaps Minister Fixit/ Fearfokol, Fikile Mbalula, might have been blinded by the latest real-time episode of The Crown too, because not much else explains his meltdown on Monday. Mbaks makes up for his lack of actual stature with an online presence that is as outsized as British commentator and Meghan baiter Piers Morgan, but this one took the cake.
His meltdown in fact, beat Morgan’s by all of 24 hours. Forget lashing out at Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, which he publicly apologised for by Tuesday in what someone said looked more like a ransom note than an apology; he brazened out his slight at Lindiwe Sisulu and doubled down on Busisiwe Mkhwebane. As for his spat with the water jug wielding Andile Lungisa, perhaps the less said the better. Even for both of them, this was a new low.
Morgan trumped him though. After throwing his toys out of the cot and storming off the set of Good Morning Britain, the TV show he hosts, he found himself jobless that night.
As for the Palace, railing under a raft of accusations not least the fact that one senior royal had enquired what Archie’s skin colour would be, a three-line statement would suffice. As short as it was, it was parsed as closely as the Dead Sea Scrolls for hidden meaning. Ultimately the claim of racism would be downgraded to possible curiosity as many South African commentators admitted their coloured and Indian aunties were exactly the same, or worse.
Nothing else changed.
Oprah got her ratings, Morgan lost his job, but Meghan and Harry could still rue the decision to go public, as his mother would after her interview with Martin Bashir in 1995. Here at home, there’s even less chance of Zuma appearing before Zondo and Prasa is still a disaster of epic proportions under Motormouth Mbalula. An entire week has flashed by, we’ve been seduced by the spectacle of the circus, just as people were in Roman times: blood, gore and, if you’re lucky, a loaf of bread.
For a moment, we managed to ignore GBV, rising unemployment and the worst shrinkage in the economy since world War II. We even forgot about COVID 19.
The only people who got hurt were the gladiators – for now.
Originally published by the Saturday Star on 13 March 2021.