South African politics: Big Brother meets the Kardashians

This week three young men – Mark Burman, Ross Bartlett and Michael Weaver – who were involved in yet another blackface incident at a historically Afrikaans university – issued an apology, of sorts, for their behaviour. The statement is worth reading on their Facebook page. Intended to convey contrition it achieves the opposite: it stands as a towering monument to the myth of white victimhood.

We obsess about Oscar and Reeva, rather than the systems and processes that produced their relationship and the structures that have the power to deliberate on gender justice. We are taken with the persona of Kebby Maphatsoe and his utterances; indeed we are equally drawn to what we see in Thuli Madonsela the person, when we should be deeply concerned with the ways in which their offices are either elevated or undermined by the cult of celebrity. And as we fixate on creating minor celebrities, the structural drivers of inequality and the whittling away of our democratic foundations remain largely ignored.

As the nation laugh-cried about the Deputy Minister of Defence’s insults against the Pubic Protector, a number of her senior staff left. Their departures were the result of a sustained attack on her office that has included more dangerous weapons than just sticks and stones: Madonsela is on the record as having asking Parliament (more on that august institution below) for more resources to pay her staff and to fund her investigations. The bravery of the Public Protector may make headlines. Indeed, it makes many of us extremely proud, but her courage doesn’t pay the bills and keep the lights on at her offices. Sadly, the ANC does that.

The ruling party has wisely figured out that its real power lies in…

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