Sometimes the little things can explain the bigger problems in life. I have been thinking about this the past few weeks as I noticed little things that have been irritating me. One of these is how politicians, who are supposed to be public servants, are being turned into celebrities by their colleagues and the media.
A few weeks ago I noticed an advert for a youth day rally to be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, but he was referred to as “His Excellency”. The last time I checked, “Excellency” is a term used for ambassadors. I suppose “Excellency” sounds royal and the president’s people want him to appear to be royal. I might be wrong.
One of my big irritations are all the photographs of ministers, MECs and even mayors in newspaper ads and billboards, sometimes completely unrelated to the message they are conveying.
There is a billboard outside Bram Fischer International Airport in Bloemfontein urging residents and visitors to save water. It carries a huge picture of Mangaung executive mayor Sarah Matawana. I found myself thinking whether people would be more or less inclined to save water after seeing this billboard. Another irritation is how politicians always try to put themselves at the centre of our sporting achievements - or non-achievements, if events of the past few weeks are anything to go by.
A few weeks ago, when Banyana Banyana returned from the Women’s Soccer World Cup after not making it past the first round, I saw on television a press conference at OR Tambo International Airport where Gauteng Sports MEC Mbali Hlophe was taking centre stage, sitting in between the coach and captain, when surely most people were interested in the views of those in charge of the team and who played in the tournament.
I have also been irritated quite often by the practise of people having to stand up when a minister enters a room at an event. I can understand standing for the president, but maybe it is just me. I remember having to stand for a deputy minister, who was late.
I was also mildly irritated by new Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who said in her maiden speech in Parliament that negative media coverage mainly targeted female leaders. Up to that point, she was doing reasonably well, but when she tried to blame negative coverage of herself on being a “female leader”, she lost me.
But my biggest irritation over the past few weeks was the red carpet at the State of the Nation Address where journalists were gushing over the outfits worn by politicians. I found myself wanting to shout: “They are not celebrities. They are public servants. They must serve the public, not prance around on red carpets.”
My irritation, I suppose, has been amplified by the fact that we have been losing old comrades at a regular rate in the past year, people who would understand where I am coming from.
The latest was Vivian Magdalene Sarah Daniels, known to most 1980s activists as Aunty Vivvy, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82. She was involved in many organisations, including the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee, where she represented Bellville South, and helped to start the Bellville Advice Office.
Aunty Vivvy, like many of her generation, did not join the Struggle to become a celebrity, but to help those who are most vulnerable. When the politicians pay tribute to her, as they surely will, they would do well to remember what drove people like her and that they never lost sight of the goal of improving the lives of the poor.
Maybe if public servants realise that they are not celebrities, people like me will become less irritated with them.
* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media.
** Fisher is an independent media professional. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.