EDITORIAL: Couple’s visit a right royal pain



More than half a century has passed since the end of British colonial rule in South Africa in 1961, nearly 140 years after the first English settlers landed in Table Bay in 1820.

That’s a fair amount of time by anyone’s standards.

Since then, we’ve managed to kick out the white supremacist regime the British handed its former colony over to — thoughtful of them, wasn’t it? South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994, but remains a sovereign state with lots of kings and queens of its own, but nary an English one.

The British have been a little busy themselves since then, albeit with new forms of colonialism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The nation even became part of Europe.

But, neither the passage of time nor freedom from British colonialism — and the apartheid state it helped create — appear to have done much to decolonise the manner in which some among us have approached this week’s “royal” visit to the former colony. How else can we view the breathless coverage that has shadowed the royals since they arrived in Cape Town?

Meghan and Harry — the Duchess and Duke of Sussex — are certainly an improvement on some of their other relatives. But then, with a suspected paedophile uncle, the standard improvement to this lot should be rendering them to the dustbin of history.

And we learned from British politics this week that they actually don’t signify much either.

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court found this week that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, an odious bottom feeder with an unfortunate haircut, had misled the queen when he advised her to prorogue Parliament. Well, why couldn’t the queen just think for herself then? That is not to be, we are told. The rank and station of her majesty in such matters is merely ceremonial.

This is exactly the nonsense we were liberated from.

But, alas, South African media houses have joined their British counterparts in providing wall-to-wall coverage of the visit to South Africa by the “royal couple” and their offspring. On Thursday morning daily newspapers wore a uniform of a smiling Harry, Meghan and baby Archie with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The kid looks cute enough and it’s good to see Arch the elder in good spirits,. But why exactly do we care so much about these people?

Every hug, handshake or stiff-legged dance has been documented in minute detail. Starstruck TV anchors have commentated every step of their visit, as if they were in South Africa to return the Cullinan Diamond, the tons of gold and diamonds looted by earlier representatives of the British crown, the head of Bambatha kaMancinza, the land and mineral resources still controlled by British corporations.

They turned up empty-handed, not even an apology for those killed by the British army — and slavery, for that matter. Nothing, not even a “sorry”.

The South African public has, in some pockets of Cape Town at least, bought into the hype. It’s a strange thing. South African has plenty of kings and queens of its own, with their own kids, without having to import others.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Pandemic cripples learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

Q&A Sessions: George Euvrard, the brains behind our cryptic crossword

George Euvrard spoke to Athandiwe Saba about his passion for education, clues on how to solve his crosswords and the importance of celebrating South Africa.

More top stories

Power shift at Luthuli House

Ace Magashule’s move to distance himself from Carl Niehaus signals a rebalancing of influence and authority at the top of the ANC

Trump slinks off world stage, leaving others to put out...

What his supporters and assorted right-wingers will do now in a climate that is less friendly to them is anyone’s guess

The US once again has something  Africa wants: competent leaders

Africa must use its best minds to negotiate a mutually beneficial economic relationship

Stern warning against Covid greets Mthembu’s death

The ANC has slammed conspiracy theorists and cautioned against showing complacency towards the deadly virus

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…