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Political pole dance — higher, highest, who has the most puzzling party poster of them all?

Political pole dance — higher, highest, who has the most puzzling party poster of them all?
Photos: Posters: Facebook. Road: Gallo Images

There’s much to be read in the different parties’ posters adorning the potholed streets of our beloved country.

The profusion of election posters on the nation’s street poles right now is a boon to the homeless, or perhaps we should call them the self-homed. I keep seeing mini-dwellings at the side of the road in which election posters are a key structural element.

I’m told by impeccable but not always sober sources that there are different kinds of posters nowadays: the old wooden (hardboard) kind, the plastic board kind and then the printed extra-special plastic board kind.

These last-named are favoured by the ANC (as well as the self-homed), apparently, though the party has put up so many they probably won’t be able to pay the Luthuli House rates and utilities bill for years to come. At any rate, the ANC posters are placed highest on all poles, so they’re hard to get to for those who need a little extra shelter for the night.

(The Freedom Front Plus, naturally, favours the old hardboard, but this will not last through the rainy season. They are, however, good for temporarily covering up potholes, at least the shallower ones. The plastic posters are too weak, it appears; they give drivers a false sense of security.)

But, beyond the materials and the expense, what is actually being said on these posters? That’s what one asks oneself. There’s an election coming up, after all. How do the parties’ actual slogans measure up?

Fascinatingly, the EFF has no slogan at all. Its posters simply say “Vote EFF” and offer a picture of an unusually cheerful Juju – perhaps the photo was taken soon after a Russian oligarch laundered a few million roubles through the EFF.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

At the other extreme, both linguistically and symbolically, is the FF+. It definitely has the most words per poster of all the parties. The posters urge people to stand up, which is odd because everyone except the infirm votes standing up anyway, and then go on to urge the nation to “rebuild”. Perhaps they should have gone further, being committed to wordiness already, and said: “Repair, reuse, rebuild, restore, recycle!”

The DA takes a similar approach, claiming that to “Vote DA” would be to “Rescue SA”. All these “re-” words! The DA and the FF+ are presumably aware that “reactionary” also starts with “re”, though that may not work in Afrikaans.

Rise Mzansi, by contrast, goes the same way as the EFF and declines to sloganise – as far as I can tell, at any rate. Its posters are the best designed and best looking of the lot, but some of the words are rather small. For all I know, they have a neat and pithy little slogan tucked away there, but it’s not visible.

I only saw one ACDP poster and I was driving at the time, as well as wrestling the dog into position on the passenger seat, so I didn’t see more than the party’s logo, which looks like it belongs to a company offering low-end electrical services. I suppose the ACDP was always going to have trouble fitting “We’ll rewrite the Constitution in the image of the Book of Leviticus” on a poster.

It’s the ANC, though, whose posters are the biggest puzzle. Apart from wondering how precisely it gets its posters so high up on the nation’s poles, we have to ask how on Earth it came up with that slogan, “We can do more, together”.

With all the vast resources of state and party confusion at their disposal, that’s the best the ANC’s ideologues could do? The days of consultants from Saatchi & Saatchi flying in to tweak a bit of political ad copy are so very far behind us.

But then I suppose the ANC has to be careful because the party is still trying to live down its first election slogan, “A better life for all”, which haunts it like the angry ghost of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Obviously it needed a sequel to the famous “Working together, we can do more” of the Jacob Zuma years. It couldn’t reuse that one because people were likely to add “looting” with a fat koki pen to the poster, but clearly the party felt some continuity was required. Yes, remind the voters that we can have “more” ANC rule, “more” than the 30 years we’ve had already. We can be “together” forever! Or we can be untogether forever – same thing.

I must say I do like that carefully placed comma. Sensitive punctuation is a sign of a reforming ANC, surely. There’s now a thoughtful pause in there: “We can do more, comma, together” – right? Or does it introduce too much space for reflection? Between the thought and the action, after all, falls the shadow.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Polling their weight — the mini-parties on executions, backdoor deals and the liquidation of the bourgeoisie

Speaking of Zuma, it seems a pity there are no MK party posters to be seen in the City of Gold. Perhaps it’s just running late, given it’s had to do a bit of North Korean-style pre-election purging of the leadership, which is called starting out as you mean to go on. Either way, it seems it hasn’t yet managed to devise a slogan.

I’d like to suggest “Back to the Bantustans!” The party could put that above or below an image of Zuma in traditional chieftainly regalia, though that might be a bit too IFP even for its supporters.

“Vote for us or we’ll burn down your local shopping centre!” may be most apt for MK, and would bravely challenge the FF+ for wordiness, but it would need posters bigger than Zuma’s lust for vengeance.

Darn it. Time is running out. Big posters are needed for the Big Man! You can almost hear those MK propagandists moaning: “When do we get our money from Belarus?” DM

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

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