Gigaba's home-grown gaffes deserve their own prime time slot
There's no shortage of material for a comedy series about our home affairs minister
In the first episode of the fifth season of the American political satire comedy, Veep, soon-to-be ex-president Selina Meyer’s calamitous press secretary, Mike McClintock, can be seen running up and down flights of stairs in an attempt to clock 10,000 steps on his fitness tracker.
The usually inattentive Meyer asks her aide why he’s out of breath and sweaty, to which he replies that he’s counting his steps. “Too bad you’re not counting your missteps,” she quips, before walking away from a gobsmacked McClintock.
It is how I’d imagine a conversation between President Cyril Ramaphosa and his home affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, would go, after the latter was caught up in yet another sex scandal, which played out on social media.
At several social engagements I attended over this past weekend, conversation inevitably turned to Gigaba’s penis (as if we’ve not heard, and now seen, enough about the man’s sexcapades over the past few years). The majority: At least it looks sizeable. The rest: He is so cringeworthy, why does he keep finding himself in these situations?
That’s when I thought about how engrossing a prime time TV comedy series around Gigaba’s gaffe-laden life would be. It would be enough to rival Selina Meyer’s doomed presidential campaign (over six seasons, or 60 episodes) or Leslie Knope’s mayoral ambitions in Parks and Recreation.
For one, it would be great to watch a local male TV character be the butt of the jokes. Secondly, the jokes simply write themselves when it comes to Gigaba. Screenwriters would have plenty of material to play around with. The out-of-focus selfies, the over-the-top fashion moments, the social media rants, the awkward Kendrick Lamar quotes, the mistresses and that laugh.
To ramp up the cringe we could add a fun-loving Fikile Mbalula-esque bestie, who is going through a midlife crisis and offers Gigaba’s character respite when public criticisms overwhelm him.
As a pilot, we could open with a re-enactment of Mrs Gigaba’s eNCA interview back in May 2017, when she was asked about the possibility of becoming SA's First Lady in the future. A coy Mrs Gigaba told presenter Ayanda Allie-Paine back then: “If it [a Gigaba presidency] comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We will see and we will respond.”
Thus, the beginning of a farcical run to the Union Buildings, filled with Gigaba’s several reassignments under the various presidents. Once in a while, a flashback to his time leading the ANC Youth League and then his role as deputy home affairs minister in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet. Following that, a role in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet, serving as public enterprises minister and, later, home affairs minister. Finally, the job of finance minister in March — the man responsible for working the country’s purse strings.
Like the lovable yet dizzy Knope, Gigaba’s character (I still haven’t found the perfect name for him) would offer us the kind of prime-time buffoonery Joe Mafela’s character in SABC’s S’gudi ’Snaysi. The difference between the two, of course, would be the chance for us to laugh at a public official at a time when very few are worthy of our love. SA TV has often shied away from such content.
I imagine him landing himself in hot water for saying too much, while doing very little to justify his position as a minister and an MP. A character who, while capable of some bright moments, is prone to more publicly humiliating ones – a man more seen on the inside of tabloids than in broadsheets. A man who yearns for years past. But this life has chosen him and he has to make it work the best way he can.
He would say things like, “We lead busy lives, as ministers, and it makes it difficult to spend time with our families, but thanks to Steve Jobs’ innovations, I can... oh, wait”. And: “People think our cabinet is too old, and they talk about Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama as the future, but which other public official do you know that has reached Level 3,500 on Candy Crush, run an entire department and still has time to send his wife flowers using the state coffers? Can’t be many. I only know of one.” And: “A lot of people think government is riddled by bureaucracy, but under my watch, this department has been to process people’s naturalisation processes extraordinarily quickly. But I mean, some animals are more equal than others.”
Like Selina Meyer and Leslie Knope, Malusi Gigaba reminds us that he is human and that some things should be seen as nothing less than funny, rather than fatal.