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Arm wrestling without my favourite watch

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GREY MUTTER: I have been looking at the election posters in the city, checking the slogans and, reading between the lines, they seem to be telling some pretty interesting stories, writes Lance Fredericks.

Picture: Aamir Khan from Pixabay

IS IT JUST me, or are more people noticing how, from one payday to the next, some products on the supermarket shelves are around R20 more expensive than the previous month?

It’s madness! Where are prices going, and when will it end? Already I am paying almost three times more rands to fill my car compared to when I bought it. These rising costs are becoming ridiculous!

It’s for these reasons, I suppose, that I love a bargain; getting something great at a good price is just one of those joys of life that cannot be fully described … were it not for the word “lekker”!

Incidentally, a while back a “lekker” bargain fell into my lap. I picked up one of those smartwatches, which have become so popular of late, at a frenzied online gadget sale. I got it for a steal; something like 75 percent off the usual price and felt quite chuffed with myself.

The watch itself is a dream, uncomplicated, stylish, excellent battery life – around a month – and plenty of features. I was rather impressed.

However, just the other day, the watch’s strap disintegrated. It just came apart. It’s been a few weeks now and I cannot seem to find a replacement band for my lekker bargain. When I do find replacement bands, they cost what I paid for the watch itself. And that’s not lekker!

I guess the cautionary tale here is, be careful of offers that seem too good to be true; they may just be exactly that.

Maybe it’s because I have been driving without my watch, and I am unable to check my heart-rate, when pedestrians ignore the sidewalks and walk four abreast in the road, or when minibus-taxis do their “flashy stops”, that I have been reading election posters in our city.

Those posters with their slogans, or lack thereof, tell quite a story. I wondered, what if someone only had access to these posters, nothing else – no media, no food parcels, no campaigns – before casting their vote on election day … It was quite an amusing rabbit hole.

For example, when an election poster says, “We need new leaders” then we know that at least one party has decided that the leadership of this country is a dodgy bunch; anyway, that is what that slogan tells me: “We need new leaders … because the current bunch are a problem”. That’s how they see it, it would seem.

When a slogan claims that only action will fix the country, then my mind fills in the blank telling me that this country is broken. They may have a point. Besides our crumbling infrastructure, homes are locked up securely and citizens are very wary of wandering out on the streets – even in daylight – seeing as the dangers lurk around seemingly every corner.

Another party claims that they are prepared to work for the people – at least that’s how I interpret the slogan. Are they intimating that our current leaders are not? Is that their suggestion?

Well, recently I read an interesting article that claimed that the current government spent R45.4 billion over the last year on salaries for 37,839 state-paid public servants who each earned over R1 million per annum.

That’s worth considering.

What about a party that calls South Africans to join them to rebuild the country? Are they insane? Are they suggesting that South Africa is disintegrating, crumbling, coming apart at the seams? Voters should make up their own minds in that regard, I suppose.

Other pretenders to the throne want voters to cast votes their way so that they can rescue the country. Rescue? Really? One usually calls for the rescue for someone or something that’s in very real, even mortal danger. Voters may have to ask themselves if our country has slipped that far away from safety when voting day comes around in two weeks’ time.

There’s also a bunch that’s inviting voters with the charming prospect of joining them in doing more together. Doing what, I wonder … more of what they have been doing all along? Sounds charming.

How about the lot who are promising that there will be a job in every home? Yes, unemployment is a massive problem in South Africa and people – even qualified, educated and skilled people – are desperately looking for work.

The problem here is that as of the last census, the number of households in South Africa increased and amounted to approximately 18.48 million. Even half that number would mean a massive amount of jobs … sounds tantalising, doesn’t it?

Now, however cynical or negative I may sound, I at least give credit to parties who made an effort to highlight issues and wear their hearts on their sleeves by way of their slogans.

What makes me cringe is when parties, on their election posters, just show off the face of their leader inviting voters to make their mark on the ballot next to “this kisser”. It’s as if they’re saying, “Vote for us. But we’re not telling you what you’re getting when we get into power … that’s going to be a surprise!”

That prospect makes me shudder!

But believe me, if anyone thinks that criticising or mocking posters or slogans or leaders ahead of an election is going to have any effect on the larger outcome, personally, I doubt it. By this time South Africans have been herded into our camps, house trained and domesticated.

We love familiarity. Loyalties to political parties, denominations, sects, clubs, teams and even fuel or soap brands are locked in and chiselled in stone.

A friend sent me a quote a while back. I don’t know who said it, but it goes: “People don’t defend what is right anymore, they defend who they like.”

But despite all the parties and all the promises, listening to the chatter on the streets, and hearing how disillusioned people are, I have the sense that this election will see an intense arm-wrestling match between democracy and indifference.

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