Naomi Campbell’s hard-hitting, open letter to Jacob Zuma went viral on Twitter last week.
She criticised Zuma for his stubborn defiance of the Zondo Commission and the Constitutional Court and for basically having set off the deadly looting riots in KZN and Gauteng.
And while most right-minded people would agree with her sentiments, I’m not so sure how to take it coming from a fashion model.
Yes, fair enough she has strong ties to South Africa, was a favourite of Nelson Mandela’s and has expressed her love for our land.
But the fact remains that she is still known mostly for being a magazine cover girl and a cat-walk hanger for designer clothes, who doesn’t live the daily realities of ordinary people anywhere in the world.
No matter how right she might be, I’m not sure how much value to place on her commenting on the socio-political status of any country.
Setting aside my personal feelings on Ms. Campbell, I am mostly bothered by the reception her writings received in the Twitterverse.
I do respect the power of the open letter. I have myself dabbled in a few of them over the years.
And in each case, I carefully weighed up the benefits of writing them, against the distraction they may cause.
My biggest concern was always that I may not possess the necessary gravitas for my words to have any impact on the recipient whatsoever.
I fully acknowledge that there are thousands of my fellow countrymen who are able to address our social and political concerns far more eloquently and intelligently than I can; and certainly better than Ms. Campbell ever could.
And that is what bothers me so much about the viral attention that her letter got.
The fact that there are other, better insights that exist inside our borders that should get equal and even more attention, but don’t.
The open letter cannot simply be a rehash of everything we already know for the sake of showing off the fact that you have been following the story in the news.
Or a rambling commentary expressing your disgust or approval of the subject at hand. Or a rebuke of bad behaviour that the whole country has already rejected.
If she knew anything, then she would’ve known that Zuma isn’t a model citizen who listens to anyone or cares about what anyone thinks of him and his behaviour.
The irony of a high fashion model scolding a former president for disobeying the highest judges in the land, shouldn’t be lost on us.
In which world does she think that her words will move a man who cannot be moved by Constitutional Court judges, his own president, his own party intellectuals and the majority of his own people? It would be comical, if it wasn’t so impertinent and cheeky.
Now in the right hands, the open letter can be a powerful instrument, especially when it comes from the pens of critical thinkers, who have invested a lot of time and energy into subject matter that deeply affects the human condition.
People whose opinion can sway decision-makers with their logic, or their ability to shed new light on matters.
People who have consulted broadly, or who have researched the topic’s many variables and arrived at conclusions that are logical and beneficial, even though it may not always align with their own initial beliefs.
Anything less than this is simply a futile act masquerading as altruism, but is in fact done in self-service as a PR exercise.
I am annoyed at Twitter for falling for it and giving more currency to celebrity status than intellectual status