The DA managed a convincing victory in the Western Cape, despite the ANC’s Herculean effort to secure the coloured vote. Wait, did I say Herculean? I meant “cringeworthy”. My mistake.
“Djy! Hou vi’ julle reg! Die ANseee kom virrie Western Cape, yor!” Aaaaaand…action! Pretty much as soon as the screaming coloured woman falls over (because that’s how we do it in the Western Cape) we jump to cuts between jolly coloured folk dancing, stills of Madiba and some flattering shots of Marius Fransman. With the slogan in big white letters: MIND = BLOWN, followed by an obligatory insert of “Daar kom die Alibama” and some minstrel-style dancing. And there, folks, you have the ANC’s jazzy video message to the Western Cape in a nutshell.
It’s suddenly terribly clear to me why those excellent fellows in the ruling party’s marketing department fell so horribly on their ear in the Western Cape. The election results spoke for themselves, but it was only when I saw the ANC’s campaign video the day after the election that I realised why. Somehow I missed this little gem during the actual campaign period and I wish I hadn’t; someone needed to tell these guys what they were doing wrong.
You really need to see the video for yourself (words can’t do it justice). But just to give you an overview first, here’s more or less what you can expect: a rather embarrassing and patently obvious attempt to appeal to the province’s coloured population through stereotyping and cliché. It opens with what’s meant to be an endearingly comical, shrill coloured woman yelling at her community to watch out for the ANC (cringe) and cuts to a group of happy ANC campaigners shaking what their momma gave them to a peppy Cape Jazz/pop number penned specifically for the occasion. I’ll give them this much: they’ve managed to turn some rather clumsy lyrics into a surprisingly catchy tune (we’ve been singing it non-stop in our house for days, truly; we even harmonise.)
Then there are some gratuitous shots of Nelson Mandela and Marius Fransman (in no particular order) interspersed with more dancing, and just to make sure that we can’t accuse them of not celebrating diversity, there’s the odd apparently homeless person, looking understandably bewildered, and even a shot of some white people playing rugby, somewhere near the end – with a gratuitous reference to “Tata Madiba”, and a little patta-patta, in the lyrics as well. But because this really is for the coloured folks, and we all know coloured people are a homogenous mass who will do anything if you first sing “Daar kom die Alibama” – it’s like a spell – the song includes some minstrel verses and a special second of breakdancing at the end. Because one must have breakdancing. You can’t talk to coloured people without breakdancing; they’ll never listen otherwise. Stubborn buggers.
You can picture the scene in the boardroom.
Marketing dude 1: Ok, the brief says we have to appeal to coloured voters.
Marketing dude 2: Eh?
Marketing dude 1: Let’s ask Fransman. He used to be coloured. (Pause.)
Hey Marius! What do coloureds like?
Fransman: Uhh, breakdancing. And klopse type singing. They love that kak. And they like to suip. But you can’t put that in the video.
Marketing dude 2: Well, we got a chick falling over in this scene.
Fransman: (chuckles) So dronk soos ‘n kleurlingonderwyser. Shame. Ag just edit out the part where she’s drinking, and follow it up with two shots of Madiba and me.
As a friend of mine put it, if the ANC is at all confused as to why they lost ground in the election, and Nkandla doesn’t explain it (as it doesn’t seem to, for some) someone should just send all staff a copy of this video. It should clarify everything.
Look, chaps, we know everyone was scrambling for the coloured vote in the Western Cape. The province has a largely coloured population and everybody knows that’s where the voting power lies, so it’s no surprise that the ANC and everybody else went for that contingent with bells on. (Well, the ANC actually literally had bells on.) It’s also not really surprising that at election time, politicians become a lot more shameless. What is surprising is that the ANC, which is the same organisation that fought for democracy and oversaw our marvellous Constitution, saw fit to sign off such an excruciating campaign that is so rooted in stereotype that not even MTN or Xpanda would have the balls to air it. Kissing babies is one thing. But this? I shudder to think what these guys are doing for their ad campaigns in other parts of the country. What about KZN? Some Indian folks sitting in a corner café telling you to vote for the ANC an’ all an’ all, hoi hoi hoi?
It’s been several days now and I still cannot get over how insulting this campaign is. But because I have been called a libtard by more than one DM reader, I thought I’d be fair and ask a few other people what they thought before I got too offended. I was validated, though. I’m in the minority in my mixed-race family, and the coloured contingent of our clan was unanimous: disbelief.
Then I moved onto friends, trying the ever-scientific facebook poll (which is a lot like Pondering Panda, only more reliable). The comments were gold.
The first was offended at the use of the term “coloured” at all, saying that “wit, swart en kleurling” was outdated Apartheid terminology.
“Sad face,” read another. “Mind not blown. Catchy tune though. I will put it where I keep Justin Bieber.”
“What just happened?” read the next. “Can I un-see this?”
“Completely stunned,” read a third. “Can. Not. Believe. It. Thank goodness the ANC didn’t get to take the WC forward; don’t think I would’ve survived the remix.”
“The weird part is that there isn’t a ‘doppie’ in every scene,” read one more. “That is probably how they justify it to themselves.”
“What makes you think this video was directed at coloureds?” read another. “Did you not hear the part where they refer to ‘wit, swart en kleurling’? I mean I would write you up some more meaningful insights and analysis, but unfortunately the clock has struck 16:09pm. This is the time at which I start my daily rendition of ‘Daar kom die Alibama’. I repeat this song a few times with and without brightly coloured clothing. Sometimes in blackface, sometimes with a parasol. It’s a whimsical, yet deeply spiritual time for me as I reflect on my roots. I like to refer to it as Hotnotmeditation.”
Others expressed regret at the exclusion of Naas Botha, David Kramer and Jack Parow, who they felt had been left out owing to the excessive focus on stereotyping coloureds. “Go say a prayer to the god of the coloureds, David Kramer, and ask for forgiveness,” said one heavily. “Klop, klop, beating of da rhythm! Klop, klop!”
“Can I bring the Klippies?” read the last. “My second exclamation (after the swear-filled rant about the opening scene) was: What decade do they think coloured people live in? Why then did they not actually just get Ricardo of ‘Daddy, I love you’ fame to sing this? Who is supposed to enjoy this and not vomit a little in their mouths?”
My family particularly enjoyed the final scene of the video, where the screaming fishwife from the first scene actually topples over in her excitement at seeing the ANC come to town. It reminded us that it’s been simply ages since I myself screamed at someone in the driveway and toppled over, which made us realise we as a family are not doing nearly enough to represent our province. I almost pulled out my front teeth in penance.
The ANC has a couple of years to play with until the next election. I’m not a politician; I never will be. But I do know something about marketing, and I know something about people. So if anyone in the ANC is listening, scribble this down: your voters aren’t stupid. And most of all, they are human beings. They are three-dimensional, complex creations with lives, a sense of self, an identity. If you want to connect with them, you have to find out how they see themselves – not make it embarrassingly obvious how you see them.
Because this is the ANC’s problem in general: whether it’s comments about “dirty votes” or “clever people”, or an embarrassingly stereotypical campaign video, the party’s representatives have a nasty habit of revealing what they think of their voters. And one of these days those voters will simply reply, “Jou ma se ANC.” DM
Marelise van der Merwe and Daily Maverick grew up together, so her past life increasingly resembles a speck in the rearview mirror. She vaguely recalls writing, editing, teaching and researching, before joining the Daily Maverick team as Production Editor. She spent a few years keeping vampire hours in order to bring you each shiny new edition (you're welcome) before venturing into the daylight to write features. She still blinks in the sunlight.
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." ~ Salvador Dalí