Who died and made the celebs president?

Dear celeb, please leave politics to the politicians

30 December 2018 - 12:00
Pearl Thusi has never been scared to speak about politics when she feels the need.
Pearl Thusi has never been scared to speak about politics when she feels the need.
Image: Instagram

2018 will be remembered as a year of political turmoil and change. Our president resigned, we got a new one. State Capture started to unravel and the ministers showcased their home affairs.

It was a time when everyone had an opinion about the country's bosses and celebs, who are among the most influential people in society, and have the potential to do real harm with uneducated views....

Whether it is the ANC recalling the president or H&M being vandalised by the EFF, celebs, like many of us, have strong opinions about what is happening in our country.

But when you are a person of influence, adored by many across race, gender and political affiliations, it is often best to simply keep your opinion to yourself.

Before you read any further, I need to make one thing clear: I am in no way minimising the contribution from the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and countless others in using their talent to highlight the evils of apartheid to the world, or claim that they were wrong to do so. I just believe that in a society where communication and "a voice" is so much more freely available through platforms like social media, celebs may use their voice to do more harm than good.

Celebs use these platforms to share their current views on politics with little thought on the impact their remarks may have on the people who follow them. I can tweet about Juju, JZ and Minister "Mr Fearf*kkol" until the cows come home and maybe lose a friend or two. But if I am a celeb, I run the risk of not only losing followers but also alienating a whole section of my fan base that may not agree with my opinion. In a world where influence is currency, such losses can hurt a hell of a lot.

Just ask actress Pearl Thusi, who faced the firing squad when she weighed in on EFF members vandalising H&M clothing stores in protest of an advert deemed racist. She was not only rebuked by EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, but by dozens of fans who told her to keep her nose out of politics. Rapper AKA was given the same orders when expressing his support of the ANC several times before. 

The problem was not so much what was tweeted, but that these celebrities seemed to benefit from political connections and were accused of speaking from an ivory tower of privilege. 

Often these celebrities do not know anything more about politics than we, as normal people, do. Instead it seems like they are just speaking for the sake of hoping to profit from the exposure that participating in a debate or trending topic might give them. It can come off as self-important and, in such cases, a public figure should not have the right to preach any louder on politics than any of us. 

I understand that celebrities are human and are allowed freedom of speech. There is also an argument that people should be able to separate the celebrity from the person. But after several years of observation and conversations with celebs in the entertainment industry, I have found that, sadly, they are often not seen as human, and the distinction between character and actor is not there for many. Sophie Ndaba will always be Queen and people will always cast dirty looks at Michelle Botes because they despise Cherel de Villiers. 

People often create an intimacy with their favourite artist or actor. Surely, that kind of impact on people's lives comes with great responsibility and is a gift that is far too precious to be thrown away because a celebrity suddenly feels a certain way about politics?

Imagine the confusion when the likes of Arthur Mafokate, who is a strong ANC man, suddenly poses on social media with rapper Fifi Cooper and EFF leader Julius Malema. Arthur and Julius had only a year before had an explosive war of words. No wonder there was backlash from fans accusing him of hypocrisy.

Recent events around the resignation of the president have shown politicians even within the ANC often change sides. We can excuse politicians for changing their views like the wind, but it seems not those close to us, like our favourite celeb. 

Celebs may eventually run for president and embattled ministers will appear on lifestyle talk shows like Real Talk. But celebs, here's a truth you need to learn: People don't really care about your view on the president's impeachment or whether Bathabile Dlamini really struggles with alcoholism. They only want you to do your job damn well and help them "escape" from the real world.