There are 11 days to the general elections - and if the posters are anything to go by, it’s a three-horse race in Joburg’s northern suburbs.
Of the 48 registered with the Independent Electoral Commission, only the ANC, the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters seem to be in the game.
Posters are a lovely vignette on the whole process: there’s design, locale and actual numbers placed. In Johannesburg, it’s possible to see patterns that must have gone into the thought process, in terms of the placing at least, but looking at social media, it seems as if the pattern is being echoed elsewhere.
The Freedom Front Plus’s “Slaan Terug” with its echoes of Tony Leon’s Fight Back campaign 20 years ago is strangely absent from most of the street poles this year, while the African Christian Democratic Party is even more overwhelmingly outnumbered than it is in Parliament.
Newcomer Irvin Jim’s alphabet soup Socialist Workers Revolutionary Party, which makes its presence felt down Jan Smuts past the zoo, looks like the EFF’s red, but is incomprehensible from a passing car, for its wordy mass of promises.
The ANC has only one message, “Let’s grow South Africa together”, which alternates at a rate of almost one to five up William Nicol with an avuncular-looking Cyril Ramaphosa “for president”, smiling pleasantly.
The EFF has Julius Malema looking svelte, young and innocent, beaming out of most of its poster beneath the label: “Son of the Soil.” Its two alternatives are the injunction: “Vote EFF” and the other: “Our Land and Jobs Now.”
By all accounts, the man the Zimbabwean government disparaged as a Gucci revolutionary two years ago certainly seems to be the poster child for both, with his reported mansion in a gated Hyde Park estate and apparent accession to the mink and manure set through his membership of the Inanda Club.
As for the DA, there’s a plethora of options to catch your attention - from a pious Mmusi Maimane, his arms outstretched like a supplicant for your blessing, to a variety of made-for-the-middle-classes slogans like “Keep the power on” and “Stop corruption” to the slightly discordant “A job for every home”.
Many of the posters appear to be deliberately in any South African official language but English, leading one wag to quip: “They’ve got the white vote; maybe they’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the gardeners and maids?”
At least the DA is trying. Sometimes too trying, as iBubesi @mabasotf pondered: “When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, he got 3 missed call messages from Mmusi and the DA.”
For the ANC, there are only two options for street posters and, after its mega-typo in Port Elizabeth when “together” was spelt “togher”, hot on the heels of all the revelations from the Zondo Commission, it’s doubling down on CR. There are so many posters with just his face that last weekend Ms Madisha @cocomagic took to Twitter to post: “My 5-year-old sister asked my mom why Cyril Ramaphosa’s pictures are everywhere and if he’s lost.”
Out of the mouths of babes
* Kevin Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.