THE FIFTH COLUMN
Robust and held often, the nation’s pressers are in good health. From Cape Town to Johannesburg to an area in front of a big, red screen, pressers of our proud nation, in their current state, show us once again what a press briefing can be — and what it can achieve. And what that says of us as a people.
Completely unrehearsed in every sense, the recent spate of pressers do exactly that, mirroring the state of the nation both politically and emotionally — though more so emotionally — for is there another kind of state that affects us as deeply?
In Jo’burg, on top of a very tall building, conducted among wicker furniture, the first of the pressers featured here suggests the emotional state of a limited — but extremely vocal — section of our proud nation. An arm, furiously gesticulating, using the hand in its entirety, denotes quite clearly a high level of anger among the section that, at times, spills into full-blown outrage when both hands are employed, well above the surface of the table.
It is important to reiterate that, regardless of the high number of participants in this presser, it does not speak for us all.
Over at the red screen, emotions are in flux following a textbook sine graph of intensity. As if reading the graph, the speaker moves his gaze up and down; his voice raises with his eyes and, yes, his hands, which give the cameraman quite the workout as they wave back and forth. During the so-called downtimes, characteristic, mostly, of the beginning of the presser, the speaker appears placid, almost at peace with what he is reading, only to erupt at regular intervals. The up-and-down presser is, indeed, by the law of averages, similar to the up-and-down emotional state of the nation and does appear to speak for us all.
Over in Cape Town, at a presser featuring a lighthouse, a state of contained panic reigns supreme, evident by a presser led by a single lady — single as far as she is handling the presser alone — both arms held firmly by her sides; bravely equating a dry spell to the atrocities of 9/11. The lady, both in demeanour and speech, appears to indicate the muted feelings of a minority in an apparent perpetual state of fear. Perhaps surprised by the severe lag of the broadcast in a world-class city, the lady does not, on this occasion, express her glee at the legacy of colonialism, preferring not to betray notable emotion of any kind in an effort, presumably, to calm a city, apparently on the brink of collapse.
Of the three pressers, the Cape Town presser is, by this estimation, aloof, disconnected and indifferent and, quite frankly, in a sorry state. In Jo’burg, hysteria spoils what could be an entertaining sidebar, which makes the presser in the area in front of the big, red screen the presser with the most pizzazz: the presser for the people; the presser, undoubtedly, in the best state of them all.
View the full version of the pressers:
• Helen Zille: