The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.
With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.
Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC.
Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign.
The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.
Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.
Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said.
Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.
An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.
This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”
The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.
I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign.
FEATURED IMAGE: Aphelele Mbokotho. Photo: File
- Wits Vuvuzela , SLICE: Will youth call the shots in 2024 polls?, April 2023
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: Pageants may glitter, patriarchy still tarnishes them, May 2023
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: Battling my addiction to social media, April 2023