Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

Soap stories. Give Afrikaans a boost

Let’s cut to the chase and call this piece “White Termination, American Torment and Black Exploitation”. And no, it’s not about the current to-do on white police shootings of blacks in the US of A. Eish! I mean African Americans! It’s about our so-called public broadcaster the SABC and what it thinks is worthwhile broadcast content. (Please note the observations you are about to read are on the lighter side, though depending on your language group you might feel they’re a little more serious.)

Not long back I noticed that with the supposed public broadcaster’s influx of “newly home-grown dramas” (as it calls them), Afrikaans programmes have taken a back seat. – exceptions being the long-running 7de Laan and Musiek Roulette. Even Afrikaans language commercials have all but disappeared, though of course that’s more the doing of advertisers and their agencies.

I could not help having a good laugh and felt rather proud of myself for making this observation on ‘white termination’ – of Afrikaans to be more exact – when I caught the tail-end of an interview with an SABC official who was boasting about the broadcaster’s home-grown dramas – and conceded there needs to be more Afrikaans-language content, but ruined the admission by adding “you can’t make everyone happy”.

Ach my poor Vermaaks, Bothas and Van der Merwes, from universities to the supposed public broadcaster your language is taking a hit.

Once loved, now vilified alleged rapist Bill Cosby

Allow me to offer a simple suggestion to the SABC. Why don’t you get rid of some of those appallingly bad American shows and invest that money in more home-grown programmes, like Afrikaans-language dramas for instance.

One also needs to ask who chooses these American programmes. I for one cannot in any way relate to them – and I lived in America for a long time, so I do get the humour. Not that my fellow South Africans don’t, but let’s say we’re not talking high-end laughter here.

Truth be said, why the heck do we have to endure the ludicrous The Real – five Hollywood hasbeens with no value whatsoever to offer? And what of the equally-stupid Braxton Family Values?

As for the Meredith Viera Show! For crying out loud the current episodes date back to December last year. SABC please get real with these absurdly meaningless shows. How much money is being spent on them? A pretty dollar I’ll bet.

Now let’s talk about this plethora of home-grown dramas. SABC you need to talk sense to the production houses when commissioning these shows. They’re all equally depressing and seem to emanate from but one production house, as they all carry the same overdone scenes of plotting and murder, with maddened black people constantly at each other’s throats. I mean why must the characters have the angriest facial expressions they can muster most, if not all the time?

Please somebody, produce a Cosby-like home-grown show – without of course the sexual harassment or secretly plying women with drugs for sexual pleasure that the once-beloved Cosby has now been accused of by scores of women.

And while you are at it SABC, please make sure it’s the script itself that’s loud and in your face and not the  actors themselves. Too many black productions, and particularly local comedies, are constantly horribly noisy – can’t actors deliver lines without yelling all the time? Boy – if the old saying “art imitates life” were true we’d have an annoyingly loud black populace, over-angry with twisted facial expressions. Geez, one would think the actors were regularly slapped in the face by the ghost of Verwoerd before getting on set.

Lastly, why must so many commercials have black people dancing around like a bunch of happy clowns? These commercials are not entertaining; personally I find them insulting. I’ll also take the liberty of naming some examples of what really doesn’t work.

KFC’s “overload” commercial is one of the worst I have seen. For crying out loud, in a society where obesity is rife did this fast food franchise have to use that big mama? KFC should take a page out of the Spur advert, where a beautiful little girl watches rugby with daddy.

On the same note, kudos to the makers of Oreo cookies, for that absolutely lovely advert with a little girl under a tent with daddy. One also has to love the closing lines in these commercials: Spur with “Argh shame!” and Oreo with “it’s complicated” –  just brilliant.

But then maybe KFC got it right after all. Anyone who over-frequents a fast-food joint could well end up looking like the “overload” mama.

Oh! One more; Men’s Clinic. If their character was in better physical shape maybe, just maybe, he would not have a problem getting it up or suffer from premature ejaculation etc. You want to impress me? Show me characters who take care of themselves – then and only then will your advert make an impact.

We really need to take a page from the African-American movement of the seventies that spoke out against the exploitation of the black image, with movies always casting blacks as pimps, prostitutes or drug dealers.

SABC owes it to the public to ensure we are portrayed in a positive light; this is not censorship but rather sensitivity.

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