The South African Politician Awards (SAPAs) will be taking place on 9 February in Cape Town. These awards are aimed at celebrating the work of politicians across the country, but raises some issues on celebrating people who are supposed to be serving South Africa’s citizens – some of whom haven’t be doing a very good job of it.
From its website, “the mission of The South African Politicians Awards is to recognise the outstanding political leaders, municipalities, political parties hard work and commitment within the South African Politics”. Categories range from Best Minister of the Year Award to Best Dressed Female Political Figure. Ugh.
So what makes these awards so problematic? Well, here are five reasons:
1. We shouldn’t praise politicians for doing their jobs
While some politicians have been doing a great job, sadly, this isn’t the case for the majority. Corruption is still a big issue in South Africa – we cannot deny this.
Just last week, The City of Mbombela started to clear out corrupt officials who were involved in fruitless and irregular expenditure of R755 million over the past two financial years. Letters were then sent to 77 officials demanding they explain their roles in various tender improprieties.
The State Capture report even implicated President Jacob Zuma himself in having ties with the Gupta family, allowing them to influence the appointment of ministers or board members to state-owned companies.
So why should we celebrate our politicians if many of them are embroiled in allegations of corruption, mismanagement, and even state capture?
2. It might be a giant waste of money
Since the announcement of the awards, we’ve been wondering who’d be paying for this lavish event, which is set to take place at the Cape Sun Hotel. The company organising it is Ngavu Enterprises, a sponsorship consultancy and celebrity management agency. It is run by entrepreneur, Lloyd Ngavu, who said that he is funding the event himself and will use the profits to cover the event costs.
While the politicians themselves don’t need to pay to attend the event, tickets for the public cost R500 while a hospitality package for the event costs around around R75 000. Maybe Ngavu should’ve spent the money on things that would’ve actually benefited the country instead of this event. #JustSaying
3. Politicians aren’t celebrities
There’s almost a kind of celebrity status attached to some of our politicians. Politicians such as Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, have a huge following on social media and have become some of the most popular figures in the country.
We even have nicknames for them: we know Mbalula as Razzmatazz, and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as Uncle Gweezy. During last year’s local elections, politicians used this kind of glamour and status to try and garner more votes from the youth. There was even dabbing at some point.
Zuma’s dab is a lot better then mine 😔 pic.twitter.com/mCgnBwme96
— Bonolo M (@_Bonolo_M_) August 2, 2016
However, these awards perpetuate this image of the politician as the celebrity. We shouldn’t forget that they are politicians – elected by us – and that we need to hold them to account when they mess up.
4. Even political parties don’t want to go
The EFF and the ANC are both calling for their party members to not attend the event. ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa warned party members against attending the awards, saying that the awards “celebrify” the work of politicians who are supposed to be servants of the people. ANC members have been nominated for 18 categories, ranging from best dressed to best politician.
“The greatest honour the ANC is honoured with is when it is elected by people, and that is the best award given to ANC,” said Kodwa. He also said their participation in the awards would undermine the trust that people have placed in them in terms of their political work.
The EFF has also said they plan to boycott the awards. The party’s leader, Julius Malema said they were contacted to attend, “but we told them we can’t be involved in this. Politicians must not be awarded for doing their jobs”, he said.
5. What has the outfit got to do with the outcome?
There are two Best Dressed categories in these awards. What does this have to do with the work that they do? Dressing all fancy schmancy doesn’t make one a better politician. It’s like the annual State of the Nation Address where the way in which the politicians dress seems more important than the actual state of the nation.
Why are these awards a thing?
Speaking to TimesLIVE, Ngavu said these awards, “must be an inspiration to lazy MPs. [It’s a message] that communities won’t recognise you if you’re not giving them service delivery”.
The issue is that these awards shouldn’t be used as a motivation for politicians to do their work. It should be knowing that what they do actually benefits the lives of South Africa’s citizens.