Freelance journalist Mandy Wiener highlights South Africa’s fall from grace in an opinion piece published by Eyewitness News this week. She describes South Africa’s reputation in the eyes of the world as undergoing a “tectonic shift” from bad to worse.
Her article was sparked by an editorial in the highly respected The New York Times condemning the South African government’s handling of the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir affair. On this website alone we have reported on the worldwide condemnation of the government’s complicity in allowing al-Bashir to flee arrest. The NYT says: “The (South African) government has clearly defied the country’s highest court and should be held accountable in some way. South Africa cannot help but compromise its leadership position in Africa if it insists on reneging on its international commitments and protecting ruthless leaders accused of war crimes.”
Since the success of the Football World Cup in 2010, South Africa has been hitting one public relations disaster after the other. From the Dewani cock-up to the Pistorius bugger-up through the Nkandla embarrassment to Fifa-gate, It’s been good news load shedding like Eskom cannot even dish up.
Switch on your TV in London, Sydney or New York and chances are something negative of South Africa will be hitting the headlines.
Wiener, in her article, rightly refers to how South African officials fuel this negative perception of our poor rainbow formation. She says our good image has “undermined and perceptions have, to an extent, been replaced by assumptions of corruption and disregard for the rule of law”. With regards to Fifa-gate, she says the blatant denials by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, in the face of mounting evidence, has done those perceptions no favours.
“The storm of criticism around President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla has also dented the credibility of the country overseas. It is difficult to justify government’s explanation for paying for the security upgrades at Nkandla. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s press conference explaining the decision, replete with explanatory videos of ‘How to use a Fire Pool’, didn’t inspire confidence. Footage of the president standing up in Parliament and mimicking opposition members and mocking outrage like a farcical character in a pantomime is downright embarrassing. The conduct of many of our MPs in Parliament of late has been a joke – a case in point is Willie Madisha’s bizarre ‘Hong! Hong! Hong!’ outburst? Imitating barnyard animals isn’t exactly becoming of our elected officials.”
And so she goes on. And we cannot agree with her more.
It’s time for South Africa to employ the spin doctors and save whatever is left of its international reputation. But first Zuma must go. You just cannot polish a turd.