Our politicians have mastered the art of saying nothing, loudly

ANC presidential candidates use words meant to achieve only one thing: to commit to nothing, writes Ndumiso Ngcobo

05 November 2017 - 00:00 By Ndumiso Ngcobo

The problem with working with words is that you think about their true meaning more than the Average Themba. The primary purpose of words is to convey information and ideas. And this is why it is so frustrating when folks use words to say absolutely nothing.
For instance, our nation is currently in the grip of that non-event called the ANC presidential race. Typically, this involves a few individuals in the ANC national executive committee calling a presser to say, "Ambitions to be president? Me? Never! But if the people want me ..."
This is followed by months of these "candidates" flying to obscure places in the butt crack of the country, such as Tlakalatlou in the Northern Cape or Patensie in the Eastern Cape.
Our reluctant possibly/maybe candidates spend hours in 41°C addressing local women in green, black and gold polyester uniforms. Afterwards, the alleged candidates are adorned with a blanket, a symbolic gift from "the masses".
If you ask any of these "supporters" what their preferred candidate's message was, they'll likely tell you, "Woo! He's a such a humble man and he is against corruption," which is code for, "Damned if I know but I got this nifty T-shirt and a food hamper."Believe me when I tell you that I have listened attentively to the current lot of presidential candidates - and I have absolutely no idea what any of them stands for. They all use the same meaningless words to say absolutely diddly squat. Words meant to achieve only one thing: to commit to nothing.
The other day I sat there with an open mouth after hearing Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa forcefully declare that we must stop the corruption at our state-owned enterprises. I remember thinking, What brilliant, breakthrough thinking! Why hadn't I thought of this novel, refreshing solution? I mean, the Average Themba in the street probably believes corruption at SOE's is a great thing!
Thank God for Swashbuckling Cyril, riding in on a buffalo to save the situation with this out-of-the-box and innovative thinking.
But at least I remember something the former Big Mac pusher said. I can't say the same about his nemesis, good ole Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She's always popping up in far-flung places, looking perpetually confused, whispering unintelligible strings of words to a bunch of bemused folks. When all else fails she inserts the words "radical economic transformation" and leaves.On this score, she reminds me of one Mmusi Maimane, another bloke with spectacularly forgettable speeches. I truly believe he opens a dictionary and selects random words until he's reached his 5,000. Then, when he feels he's losing the attention of his audience, he sommer yells out Mandela's name in a suitably excited and screechy voice. I have seen confused faces in his audiences, as if they're asking, "Is he one of the 3,456 members of the Mandela family?"In this regard, ole Mmusi is the antithesis of the only political bunch that seem to have mastered this effective communication business, the EFF. When they're not busy re-enacting scenes from Lord of the Flies with their Sasco-inspired chaos, they're consummate communicators. They appreciate the value of short sentences. The use of simple words understood by 100% of the population.
For instance, "PAY. BACK. THE. MONEY" was an ingenious slogan. Unambiguous. Had it been Mmusi's idea, it would have been "Reimburse the public purse expeditiously" and Duduzane's dad would still be playing peekaboo with the country.
There are many power couples in the political space, such as the Nqakulas, the Motshekgas, the Ngcukas, the Moeleketis. I have always imagined what sweet nothings are whispered in the lead-up to "the dance" in their bedrooms. Is it perhaps, "Compatriot, would you be so kind as to implement the transfer of your sexual organs in my general direction, whereby I can engage with them amorously"?
• Follow the author of this article, Ndumiso Ngcobo, on Twitter: @NdumisoNgcobo

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.