Anything Bigger than Polokwane?
Last year's African National Congress conference in Limpopo produced a thriller. Never before was the focus of the world so great on an event so African only Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki could have produced. The ANC Conference mesmerized media players all over the world and made political analysts out of Tom, Thabo and Thandi. Here are some of the thrilling moments ever recorded in television history! Email Yours to Us.

May 8, 2006 will undoubtedly go down in South African television history as the single day the whole nation ever stood still to witness first hand the ultimate decision in the Jacob Zuma vs The State rape trial. If viewership tallies are to be believed, the last time South Africans were ever glued to this magnitude to a single event of national importance was the FIFA 2010 World Cup host country announcement two years ago. Interesting, all South Africans on the day wanted television to tell them the same story.

At the end of that announcement everybody was hugging anybody as if there was no inflation rate that stood at 6% and bills to pay the following day. You'd have sworn to God the World Cup was happening the following day and everybody was going to be given R1000.00 for their patriotism. That was before the Africa Nations Cup disaster and the Eskom load-shedding theatrics.

For the record, the last time an elected president ever competed with an accused for television ratings was in 1995 when then US President Bill Clinton was delivering his State of the Union address on ABC. Around the same time the verdict in the OJ Simpson vs State of California murder trial was due. Both stories were of such national importance that the broadcasters just couldn't wait for the address to report if OJ was going to fry or not. What the broadcasters did was to interrupt the president's address through the use of titling to announce that OJ was found 'not guilty'. Right there you had two groups of people reacting differently, very much along racial lines. You had your OJ loyalists shouting as if applauding something Clinton said while actually they were happy OJ was going to walk free, a murderer or saint. You had this other group that cursed, which one could easily have thought they were directing it to Clinton while it was not the case. The last time Americans had a similar response was the Rodney King vs LAPD civil suit in 1988.

On the Monday of May 8, 2006 South Africa had such a historic moment. Something last seen when cricketer Alan Donald cost the country a spot in the World Cup finals by not taking a crucial run during the ICC Cricket World Cup in England. Some people allege that apart from Donald, the other last time we had such a nail-biter was when Mbeki was on television to announce that JZ was being relieved of his cabinet and executive duties. Mbeki was once again competing for attention with his former deputy. The parliamentary celebration of the tenth anniversary of the constitution was nothing compared to the thriller that was playing itself out at Court 4E. That ended up with Zuma being found "not guilty". That was one hell of a spectacle.

The Hefer Commission was one such while the 2004 Presidential Inauguration was a flop. Even the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) election tallies and results broadcast never surpass a fully suited politician in an expensive car and an entourage of bodyguards infront of a court building. Former City Press editor Vusi Mona and Judge Johan Hefer might have boosted ratings but no one cared if Mona was donning Versaces or Gucci.

Maybe again such a moment was when Judge Hillary Squires delivered the marathon Schabir Shaik judgment at the Durban High Court. Isn't it interesting that it seems the only celebrities our television is capable of making are those in politics and business? Imagine, Shaik and Squires stole the show three year ago and became overnight celebrities, thanks to the ANC Youth League's Fikile Mbalula. Mbeki stole it when he fired JZ. Some commentators were even commenting about Mbeki's dress sense, his beard, suit and tie and the absense of that customary red AIDS ribbon on his lapel.

No doubt the traditional Opening of the Parliament television broadcast is now facing stiff competition as well. Nobody watches anymore since it now resembles the one man show (Budget Speech) which produces only one star named Trevor Manuel. Next in danger will be the Soweto derby (Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates). Imagine if the ABSA final was played at ABSA Park (eThekwini) on the same day and same time that Umsholozi's fate was read out in court, more than 400 kilometres away?

Another celebrity couple that was made by television was the flambouyant Yengenis. Former ANC Chief Whip Tony and his wife's dress sense became the talk of the town because of the coverage television gave to their court appearances. Today people know that Tony loved to dress in Italian suits because they saw is first on TV. But can they succesfully outsmart the Vilakazis, Pirates' Benedict and Motshabi whose dress sense also made for interesting headlines?

For what it's worth, in South Africa don't expect to become a television celebrity if you are not into politics or in a scandal. Imagine, our celebrity president, his celebrity former deputy, celebrity soccer player and the man who revolutionised the sale of the Mercedes Benz ML Class, aptly known as the Yengeni. Move aside Snoop Dogg and Robbie Williams, here we don't do musicians and film stars but high profile role models. Most of our celebrities like Kassie "Silver Fox" Naidoo, Kemp J Kemp, Michael Hulley, Willem van der Merwe, Marumo Moerane, Pius Langa are in the judiary. Simply, our Brad Pitts and David Beckhams are our legal eagles.

This is a sign that our television has grown since its very first much-watched broadcast of June 16, 1976. IN TV WE TRUST.

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