Firstly I’d like to disclaim that the intent of this story is to be by no means offensive. On contrary, I am trying to understand fully as to why my fellow South Africans are offended by such things — because they are. And I am either ignorant, to which I welcome wisdom; otherwise I hope some people may benefit from my words & reveal some clarity on it all some way or another.
On Friday, 15th January 2016, a prime real estate advertising billboard (well… it’s a full apartment block’s street-facing wall to be more precise & to help illustrate the size of this space) at the foot of Kloof Street in Cape Town, South Africa, was erected with the already common hashtag, “ZUMA MUST FALL” boldly printed across it.
Now, for those unaware who Jacob Zuma is (doubt it), he is South Africa’s President, and leader of the ruling political party, The ANC. Zuma has had some rather controversial moments during his presidential reign on a personal & political capacity to say the least. But which president hasn’t, right? Zuma has a particularly zesty tale to tell at the President’s Ball (I know that such a ball isn’t where all the world’s presidents gather to awkwardly await to be asked to dance & gossip about Columbia, but one can dream), do yourself a favour if new to the man, he has a rather fruity & decorated history.
Come the following day, Saturday, the ANC had targeted this with understandable outrage, and ordered the removal of it, and not to discredit freedom of speech, under certain advertising standards not being considered. The ANC eventually just ripped it down themselves to my understanding. One member of parliament, Bongani Mkongi, stating on social media the billboard and building (along with its occupants) must be burnt down reasoning, “They must burn to death as it is life for them to keep it that way.” (pretty gnarly shit, but this instance surrounding the billboard is not my interest really). This reaction & effect I’m sure was expected from the man behind it all, with (not certain how credible) reports of nearly 2million shares on social platforms of the billboard.
Being involved in the ad world professionally, and investigating the cost of having an ad piece on that space being amidst R200 000 p/m, that return in 24hours surely more than gained it’s projected target, as there would be full prior consensus it wouldn’t last very long at all. However, the costs were one of the first things thats brought me to attention that the billboard was not supported aside from political positioning.
I am not the most political South African by any means, although I’m certainly not naive to what happens here and there in our wonderful country, as I am the spawn of two veterans of the news world. This said, I find it rather important & fitting that I am the ‘average guy’ from late Generation Y (post-apartheid), as these type of things are prevalent for the average, young adult. As we think our collective conscious is on the same page day in and day out, its clearly not, and these instances materialise how one another perceives such a thing.
These are the reasons I have investigated as to being problems with such billboard, which I admit, until erected, was not aware of:
1. Advertising regulations:
So straight off the bat, the billboard didn’t follow protocol erecting the banner, leaving the building’s occupants cloaked in shade as it covered windows temporarily, and went around some required measures leaving a few people pissed off etc.
I’m not too interested, as no one is. No one cares enough about the ad regulations it didn’t abide to for a shit storm to swarm social media.
2. The cost:
This was an interesting objection I saw repeatedly mentioned.
The cost of this billboard could have effectively funded a more conscious and less obstructive awareness to the cause, or even anything else, regardless of cause, that could have benefitted from the funds.
Although the cost to pull off such a grand gesture is rather astounding, by no means was this a ‘waste of money’. The social spread of this was incredible. And furthermore created a lot of debate, which undoubtedly was the desired result. And I can assure you that this is not only topical amoung English-speaking people with internet access. The power of social reaches the most quiet of corners. The only concern though is the ‘broken telephone’ passing of this information… hence this very article in many respects.
Secondly, what someone of wealth and fortune does with their riches is completely up to them. I mean this within boundaries, I’m not condoning some Hostel shit by any means. But as I don’t say to the average person I see at a bar,
‘Hey, you know how much money you could have saved not smoking?’,
‘You know drinking isn’t that smart, you should save more of your salary toward a fund for the future’…
Please, not only is it hypocritical, but just give me a break…
This isn’t a crack at race or ‘privilege’, the catch-all term that hurts everybody and solves nothing, which I could feel tittering from the beginning of these billboard concerns.
The money you honestly earn should be considered yours to do as you wish. Whether you enjoy your weekly wage, of the smallest amount, on a beer on your lawn beside your pals, to presenting your mistress with a Rolex in the Ritz, these are your decisions. The wealthiest men in South Africa are not white colonialists, and they enjoy driving fancy cars & expensive whiskeys as much as anyone else would. This is the reward for (I hope) hard work. As I very much intend on becoming somewhat successful in my own right, and should I be so fortunate, I’ll try practice philanthropy as much as I can. I also envision myself doing a lot of foolish, selfish things with my money (I mean genuinely silly stuff, like purchase an aeroplane that can land on water or building a robot squid — because I can). And should anyone have issues with that, and blame it on ‘privilege’, then I’d feel ambition, opportunity & hard work will forever be bruised by a hurtful, endemic blanket term, easy to use, rather than equate sensible eradication of corruption, nepotism & poverty.
The point being, honest earned money (‘honest’ meaning you didn’t get offered R130m to build a division of government’s website for a day’s work) is none of our business as to how it’s spent. If this is a concern of yours, I’d look more critically at where your tax money is going; because all political parties are practicing the same marketing stunts, appealing to the average, hedonistic traits of a free juice box and a shirt with someone’s face across it’s chest in exchange for your vote.
2. ‘Hijacking’ another hashtag/cause:
Things got a little more clearer for me with this motive suggesting the ZumaMustFall movement had swindled a precursors cause, FeesMustFall & RhodesMustFall.
There seems to be issues with the new ‘Zuma’-addition to something associated with a perceived lack of transformation generated by a group that doesn’t necessarily wish to associate with this. Because of the success of the prior movements and campaigns, people seem to feel this is a latch-on, attempting to be considered the same successful notion by these adopters.
I personally believe there is as much related between these causes as one wishes. Whether you think its limited to simply the hashtag suffix/extension (-MustFall), that there is a momentum of change stemming from a direct, prior catalyst maintaining the extension, or a different left wing cause has jumped on it, then all so be it. I don’t feel supporting one of these causes assumes you support all.
My overall opinion on this is that the ‘-MustFall’ extension has no ownership. I’ve seen some rather ridiculous and amusing hashtags be generated out of it (AvocadoPricesMustFall etc), meaning to me the extension has become common use to attach to whatever you wish — good, bad, related, satirical, humorous, stupid, whatever… If it doesn’t carry weight, it won’t last.
Perhaps more importantly so, is momentum of change is critical. Causes can’t all rely solely on themselves and hope to generate a blip on the radar, organically every time. Movements are rarely truly independent from conception, rearing and maturity. It involves some kind of prior activity, and big change tends to have a massive momentum behind it of groups finding solidarity by combining, reaching and growing.
I’d be frustrated and enraged should something unjustified or unethical were to try bluff its true colours by dressing in sheep’s clothing. But from what I see inserted is a man’s name, “Zuma”, who has countless faults against him, leading me to think is this a represented insertion for something more cynical?
3. Its ‘true’ meaning:
I use the word ‘true’ as this is how a lot of people start this billboard/cause objection (or any objection in general, really). The simple addition of a four-lettered word, to influence sincerity & something genuine, yet can be followed by something completely bullshit & the receiver is conditioned to feel a more honest inclination.
By this stage in my investigating as to what was hurting my fellow countrymen, I had already come to fully realise this was the issue:
“ZUMA MUST FALL” insinuates “BLACKS MUST FALL”.
I am without doubt there are people from the hashtag side, adopting it with a malicious and racist intent, but these people are morons and I don’t even bat an eyelid at them. Nor should I imagine anyone taking warped, maggot-souled extremists seriously.
However, come this stage I had not seen anyone address the fact that the letters and hashtag spelt out a man’s name. No one mentioned Zuma anywhere I looked from an opposing side. It was immediately cast toward other malicious intentions.
Making me feel that this is a, not even carefully strategised, spin-doctored stunt, coordinated by the Zuma-alliance, or at least very much benefited by them. South Africans are so trigger happy when it comes to racial bigotry that any sniff of someone suggesting that seed of thought will make anything spiral. Racism is a disgusting playground taunt that is used across and board & will never be tolerated, however these heavy realisms mustn’t cloud ideas away from their focus. Because if so, powerful people use this as a powerful tool of persuasion & separation.
What I believed was a unison of South Africans to pressure one man to relinquish his responsibilities to a better suited candidate, irregardless of party & colour, seems to be smothered, without my full realisation, because of a racial twist that was constructed to suffocate it out.
My final impression is disappointing as I believe there was a small spark to create some political discourse, targeting one man who is not fit to reign a nation of our ability, yet has been steered into micro bickering between friends and colleagues about race, privilege and wealth.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela
Be smart & be gentle South Africa,
& thanks to all who commented in helping me understand over the weekend.
PS. I am open to any comment to enlighten me on this issue, as I’m sure there are things I am missing.