10 May 2009

It's not a train smash, it's the presidential Inauguration

Yesterday was the inauguration of the fourth president of South Africa since the advent of democracy in 1994. According to some reports, the bash cost R75 million.

All the TV news channels were reporting it non-stop. In the midst of them showing the chairs being arranged and the like, there was one of those ticker-tape things at the bottom of the screen with a fleeting mention of a train crash in which 100 people had been killed, or something. We waited for more news, but there was no chance of it. The preparations for the inauguration were everything, nothing else mattered.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 we went along and joined in the flag-waving jubilation. It was, after all, a historic occasion. "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: then were we like unto them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter: and our tongue with joy."

But when Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated in 1999, we stated home, and looked at bits of it on TV. Kgalema Motlanthe was inaugurated without a big fuss being made, and perhaps Jacob Zuma could have had a more low key affair as well.

So, bored with the chair-placing by chair-placing account of the inauguration preparations, I switched to a Brit TV station. They might not tell us about a train crash in our own city, but they could perhaps show us something more interesting thatn a bunch of overpaid politicians with umbrellas.

They were showing a bunch of overpaid politicians who had cheated on their expense accounts, and made our own "travelgate" scandal look positively amateur, and I have to admit that the temptation to schadenfreude was great indeed, after reading the sneering comments of the British Daily Mail's Peter Hitchens He has four wives and faced 783 corruption charges: PETER HITCHENS on South Africa's next president | Mail Online:
Once, South Africa dominated the nightly news for weeks on end. Now the liberal media barely mention it. Why not? Because post-apartheid South Africa is a failure.

Well, welcome to the world of failed states, Mr Hitchens.

Oh, and it turned out that the train smash wasn't so serious either, but they could have told us.

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