Populism is best left to politicians

I have always contended that the problem with our society – South Africa – is that public forums are occupied by a bunch of dimwits and idiots. By public forums I am primarily referring to radio, television, churches, newspapers and magazines and other traditional public platforms. The growth and influence of the Internet has somewhat helped to placate the disease, but the virus remains resolute and stubborn. This bunch of dimwits and idiots with their limited imagination still wield enormous influence over the shaping of ideas in the public’s mind, not that they know the meaning of those ideas, for they are just messengers paid to bombard the masses with rubbish.

Founder of Touch HD, Thabo ‘Tbo Touch’ Molefe has proven not to be a dimwit nor an idiot, but his reckless statements resemble that of a dimwit or an idiot; and as it is usually the case with media personalities like Tbo Touch, he holds a large sway over the public’s imagination. However, that becomes a problem when he begins to mislead that very public that trusts him to impart to them relevant information. Previously, I wrote on this platform that Tbo Touch is one of a few black mavericks that we are fortunate to have in South Africa, and I still stand by my statement. However, Tbo Touch has been guilty of abusing his position as a media personality.

In 2016 when the noise about the cost of data bundles in South Africa reached a boiling point, courtesy of social media, Tbo Touch swooped in like a black knight, pledging to come to the rescue of the masses, thus installing himself as the voice of the people on the matter. Again, for we are humans who have outsourced our mental faculties as citizens to any charlatan who proclaims to know better, we took Molefe at his word and relinquished the responsibility of bringing down the cost of data bundles to him. With the benefit of hindsight, for history is a great teacher, that was a huge mistake.

Tbo Touch with his then partner, the racist clown Gareth Cliff, travelled to the house of legislature – Parliament – to present their case on behalf of the ‘great masses of our people’ before the Communications Portfolio Committee. Noting that this was serious and therefore dangerous for their bulging profits, the telecommunications giants pulled Tbo Touch aside and promised him heaven on earth. Currently, all MTN users can listen to Touch HD for free. Whether this will stand the robust technical tests if probed, that is a matter for another day. All that MTN users know, at least those who subscribe to Touch HD, is that they are listening to Tbo Touch’s online radio platform free of charge. As for us the ordinary masses, who were naïve to surrender our responsibilities to Tbo Touch, we are still paying for data bundles with our kidneys.

It is my firm belief that populism is best left to politicians. Unfortunately, we have long accepted that it is a habit of politicians to make populist statements and never to back them up with actual work. Theirs is to snatch an opportunity to keep them in power while they do nothing for the advancement of their communities. To put it bluntly, politicians never take responsibility for their promises. If I was a gambling man, I would say Tbo Touch looks to be auditioning for a political career. His failure to deliver on his promises to bring down data bundles prices, like a politician, has only emboldened him, instead of teaching him a lesson in humility. The former Metro FM DJ is hellbent on using the anger of the public for his own personal gain, and therein lies my problem with Tbo Touch.

The recent decision by Multichoice – a subsidiary of the Stellenbosch born Naspers – not to renew the contract of the 24/7 news channel, ANN7, when it expires at the end of July this year created another social media storm. Some believe the decision by Multichoice to drop ANN7 is more political than commercial. I am one of those people but unlike my dear friend and fellow columnist on this platform, Seitiso Ntlothebe, I do not possess the necessary credentials to argue this matter. The rest believe ANN7 has brought nothing but shame to journalism and news reporting. Again, this is not my field of expertise. I am merely painting a picture to offer the reader context for my saying populism should be left to politicians.

In the middle of the brouhaha over the ANN7 and Multichoice’s abrupt divorce, once again, the black knight, Thabo ‘Tbo Touch’ Molefe entered the fray to deliver the ‘great masses of our people’, like Moses supposedly did in Egypt, from the tyranny of uninformative news and mediocre programming. On his Twitter account, Tbo Touch promised to replace ANN7 with his news channel that will cater to ‘black millennials’.

According to Molefe, the reason why black millennials don’t watch the news is because they are not informative. I am inclined to agree with him partially on that one. Our news channels bombard us every day with uninspiring and discouraging news. But Tbo Touch is missing the point. These news channels are business entities intended to make money from our general misery. By supplying us with negative news they profit from our hopelessness and ignorance. Either he is dumb enough to believe that Multichoice will allow his news channel to operate like a freewheeling diode, or he is being used as a tool to pacify the masses. Whatever his reasons, he should not be allowed once more to steal our rage for his personal benefit.

If Tbo Touch is serious about dismantling the status quo, begging Multichoice to host his news channel is not the way to do it. Instead he should be focusing his energies on building an independent innovative platform where other channels can be hosted. By saying he is starting a channel to replace ANN7, he is not doing anything new or worth celebrating but playing within the same system that is about to toss ANN7 away like a rotten cabbage. Touch has the potential and power to contribute much more to this country, provided he stops his selfish gimmicks and grandstanding.

In his piece titled, In the absence of intellectual light, a dark space for mediocrity, rubbish and silly scams was created, published on this platform last year, Seitiso Ntlothebe observed the following about our public platforms occupied by dimwits and idiots: ‘In the absence of intellectual light to guide our society, a large space was created, and charlatans, scammers and tricksters took to the opportunity like a tjatjarag uncle at a wedding ceremony would do upon laying eyes on cold bottles of Carling Black Label.’ In his column, Ntlothebe argues that our leading lights – scholars and intellectuals – have neglected their duty hence our radio stations, television channels, newspapers, magazines, churches and organisations are led by questionable characters with pea-sized brains. As the masses we too are guilty because we allowed dimwits and idiots to abuse us through public forums. If they knew we were not as gullible and naïve as we are, they would not dare take a chance. I dare you to tune into any radio station and you would swear that you have just walked into a large sewerage of idiocy where the dumbest are venerated and the mentally incapacitated are praised.

Once again, I am not saying Tbo Touch is a dimwit nor is he an idiot. His storied and controversial departure from Metro FM to start Touch HD is proof that the man has brains, but his careless utterances are similar to those of his dimwitted and idiotic colleagues and former colleagues within the entertainment industry. It would be best for him and the nation at large if he left populism to those in the muddy business of politics and focused his attention on innovating; starting with building his own independent visual platform to accommodate not just a news channel, but more progressive entertainment and informative channels. Pula!



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