We know what the cost of strong man politics is, we’re paying for it right now

Whether or not the revolution will be televised might be moot – one thing’s for sure, if you live in KZN or Gauteng, by now you’ll probably be watching it on a high definition TV. 

By Monday night, when President Cyril Ramaphosa took to our screens for the second time in as many days to condemn the widespread looting that was starting to develop a life of its own in the two provinces, eNCA was helpfully running a mini-screen off to the side of the president showing people in Durban stripping a shopping centre right down to the fridges and the couches in real time.

What the wall-to-wall real media coverage on all channels has shown is that this latest wave of unrest has very little to do with outrage over the “people’s president” sitting in jail on a contempt charge, and everything to do with opportunism stoked by cynical manipulation of decades of increasing inequality. 

It also disproved, in KZN at least, the argument that the looters were only hopeless and hungry; because you can’t eat a flat screen TV. The person in Durban caught leaving with a hand-picked basket of groceries, crossing the street to his expensive German coupe, didn’t look like he was down to his last Sassa grant either. 

Up north, TVs were popular but the real target was booze. One person was filmed singlehandedly carrying off a stove. It wasn’t the Defy the “people’s president’s” people had perhaps wanted, but they would have been overjoyed with the anarchy that was taking root.

Thanks to the work of the media, we know the faces of this week’s looters. We even know some of their intentions. They are far-removed from the fevered utterances of the cosplaying Duduzane Zuma or the typing of his equally toxic twin Duduzile; the most visible beneficiaries of state looting inciting others to loot to force the release of the looter-in-chief. 

The problem, as always, are the other keyboard warriors wanting the president to “grow a pair” forgetting what happens when you unleash the genie of kragdadigheid. And then, if that wasn’t enough, there were the keyboard worriers catastrophising everything, looking for extra Ivermectin and packing desperately for Perth – or Prieska.

In truth, “Cyril the meek”, determined to raise consensus and let the system work, might be the best hope we have. We know what the cost of strong man politics is, we’re paying for it right now, while he giggles to himself in his prison cell. The real people aren’t just desperate for work, they’re also sick of obeying laws that he broke himself. It’s not just their time to eat, it’s also their time to thumb their nose at the system.

The only way to stop that is for the system to work. 

A good start would be trying the toxic twins. Bottle stores aren’t the Bastille – they’re certainly not Estcourt prison. We see you – and because of that, it’s actually amandla to us. 

As for the rest, they didn’t as much televise the revolution, as give themselves the means to watch themselves convicting themselves on an endless loop. 

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 17 July 2021.