Staying with friends in Cape Town, I did not have to rush around the house sealing fridges or switching off appliances prior to load shedding. They have power most of the time (a combination of a blip in their location and the simple fact that Cape Town has fewer blackout episodes).

The value of their home is rising not simply because it is beautifully renovated but because people want to live where they live, especially monied foreigners. It is a city where a citizen who tweets a plea for the city to enable just ‘tapping’ for any payment card on @MyCitibus gets a two-word response from the mayor – “coming soon” – and it is possible to believe him.

My hosts did not use their power to turn on a TV to watch President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver his State of the Nation speech on Thursday 9th of February. Nor did I watch the livestream available on my phone despite my well-established addiction to breaking news. I got the few tidbits of interest I wanted from my in-parliament source and from Twitter.

The Economic Freedom Fighters did what it was expected they would do, only faster. The Speaker acted more swiftly than usual and with more serious force. The President took a long time declaring a State of Disaster for the whole country (which seems excessive and prompts some bad memories) and added a Minister of Electricity (unnamed) to his bloated cabinet.

Leisure encourages musings and pondering. Ensconced on a chaise longue, idly notating in a notebook and eating a Jason Bakery Pain au Chocolat (reason enough to semigrate to Cape Town) I began thinking how the story of South Africa would come across as a popular television series, perhaps even one with a satisfactory, positive ending.

Armies of grifters …

A dissembling group of negligent and greedy rulers plot to make themselves ever more dominant and wealthy by strangling the life-giving force the people they oppress have come to depend on. They plan to offer up a new one which promises greater treasures for themselves. Using armies of grifters and groups of rabble rousers paid by the leavings of criminals, they keep their subjects warring among themselves. As their complex decades-long plot becomes ever more evident, a few warriors and scribes raise the alarm and resist their machinations, but the people, stunted and drugged by stipend use and denied the full strength of the elixir of eDukashin that will help them resist their rulers, fail to rise from their torpor. Then one day…

(I dropped in on a couple of episodes of Dune and scrolled past interminable historical dramas of the kings and peasants variety in my mind’s eye while on my chaise longue. So I may have been influenced by some dominant narratives.)

But let us continue with this fictional riff. Or is it?

A first draft of Episode One, supplied by the small but hard-working co-op of the Ridiculously Hopeful Simps wasn’t very realistic and seemed to indicate its members are given to smoking their socks:  The rulers heed the warnings of the people and words from the wise and agree to significant changes that halt the road to ruination.

(As an aside, a down-the-rabbit hole online search with the phrase “the rulers heed the people” produced zero results on Bing. Google produced some, but they all seemed links to the Bible’s decidedly status-quo-supporting injunctions to heed the authority of human institutions.)

This pitch is obviously for the second season of a series which would trace the origins of the rulers and feature a black lead character who could be described as “a charismatic saviour”. It picks up the storyline where the rulers have reached the peak of their powers and are now in decline.

Don’t tell me this series wouldn’t quickly be scooped up as a fantasy for Netflix, an Apple mega production featuring a myriad players and locations across a country or the world, or a hard action special for Prime Video.

You, me and the rest

Unfortunately for the prospects of selling it for big bucks, the scriptwriting team (which unsurprisingly is you, me, and the rest of the country) hasn’t yet come up with what exactly will happen in the episodes that follow. But we do have an interesting new character to flesh out – the Electricity Minister. He could be Captain Marvel. Or an expensive and damp squib. We’re waiting on the casting director’s decision. We could cut costs here if we simply make this minister a CGI shadow of one of the existing ones.

There are already a couple of great visuals in the can for the producers.

A member of the ‘amaberets’ police squad, only his eyes showing, suddenly materializes beside the besashed President in parliament.

A group of men in Red Overalls (we must be careful the viewers do not mistake these for some Spanish bank robbers in another popular Netflix series) clashing with men in White Shirts in their attempt to reach the podium of the President.

Visuals on the State of Disaster could give us some opportunities for a lead female character.

With an eye on how it plays in other countries of distribution we could make more of the recent Russian visitors by curious cargo ship and by air. There’s also the predilection for poisoning as another strand in this complex storyline.

To draw in a youthful audience put off by the age of the main characters we could steal from Instagram and TikTok and incorporate a #Change Cartel sub-plot. Young Duduzane Zuma, descendant of a previous evil ruler, armed with sleek suits, good looks, a luxury lifestyle and social media videos, is winning the hearts and future votes of schoolgirls in the ancient realm of Nkandla, out of reach of the principal rulers. 

Real-life pit

While the possibilities for this series are endless if we go by what makes it onto our TV screens, and draw down on the facts on which this series is based, the possibilities and opportunities for us to dig ourselves out of the real-life pit we are in, after ten years of economic decline, bad caretaking of precious assets, and this SONA speech, are not so many.

The intellectual attack-dog of the anti-woke, founder of New Discourses and book author, James Lindsay, talking of a deliberate campaign he believes is being used in the culture, gender and race wars, describes how people become demoralized. He says they lose morale and will when they are unable to tell fake from real or right from wrong, when they begin to distrust people (sometimes with reason), when they can no longer recognize what is true even when provided with evidence.

Many South Africans, including senior members of the African National Congress, show signs of already being demoralized in many of those ways. This SONA, however, has provided everyone with sufficient evidence to realize that it is right, not wrong, to not trust the current leadership to find a way out of the hole it dug for the country.

Now all we have to do is find sufficient morale, will and votes to stop them, the ANC, from taking the country down with them.       

[Image: Dewald Van Rensburg from Pixabay]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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Paddi Clay spent 40 years in journalism, as a reporter and consultant, manager, editor and trainer in radio, print and online. She was a correspondent for foreign networks during the 80s and 90s and, more recently, a judge on the Alan Paton Book Awards. She has an MA in Digital Journalism Leadership and received the Vodacom National Columnist award in 2007. Now retired she feels she has earned the right to indulge in her hobbies of politics, history, the arts, popular culture and good food. She values curiosity, humour, and freedom of speech, opinion and choice.