Oh, the president’s wit. The president’s wit. What is it, about the president’s wit?
Let me just try get a few things out the way: Is there something about his lack of delivery that gets us all riled up instead of laughing? Is it timing? Is it that he does not know his audience well enough? Or is it just a matter of word choice that leads to bad jokes, like saying: “We must not think like Africans in Africa”, which then in turn leads to the summoning of The Mac — Mac Maharaj — of course.
The Mac always enters the frenzy and uproar to spin a web and still the masses. But Mac, tarantula of all spin doctors is starting to slip. The split-ended threads are starting to show. Press release after press release, one gets the impression that tireless attempts of trying to reverse the president’s words are starting to become repetitive for him. Does anyone else feel like they already know what Mac’s going to say before he even says it, or is just me?
In this scripted universe though where predictable is the order of the day and to shake your head disappointingly at a naughty media that tends to quote “out of context” is served up plate after plate … after plate, there is still room for surprise. Like when one of those press releases entered the inboxes of media houses countrywide the other day Mac tried to explain what was meant when Zuma said: “We can’t think like Africans because we are in Johannesburg and not some national road in Malawi.” Naturally the press release contained the expected shunning of journalists for their bad hearing and innate knack for contorting Zuma’s words. Because obviously we thrive on that. We make stuff like that up.
How? Simple. We hurry back to newsrooms and debate things on an inter-newsroom level via satellite TV (with impenetrable signal-wave thingies) until every single publication has settled on the exact same string of words, in the exact same order. And then … when the quotes have been quoted, the presses have printed and the websites updated, we all meet in the secret den of underground journ-lords and have a mass, meditative cackle in tribute to the genius of our work. Why? Because it’s so much fun and also, we can’t wait for Mac to wag his uncle-finger at us.
And he does, and he did. Only this time he was the great word contortionist (just in case we didn’t know this already). He quoted Zuma warmly and inaccurately so that the quote in the press release suddenly read: “We can’t think like Africans because we are in Johannesburg and not some national road in Malawi or Rustenburg or Pietermaritzburg.”
Dear Mac. Check your hearing aid. If you were copying off a transcript, check your specs. Most of all maybe stop dirtying your hands. I’m getting that “I wish I could settle down and just dip a biscuit in a cup of tea” vibe from you. I know this vibe. I have uncles who give me that same vibe. And you know what they do? They hang back, they knit their fingers together, rest them on their bellies and watch the show without ever really becoming a part of it. They do the laughing, instead of being laughed at. They have some tea. So do. Please Mac. Do.