Sunday Times E-Edition

Ghost employees have nothing on being beaten by a corpse in an election

On May 16 I read what may turn out to be my favourite story of 2023. Al Jazeera reported that a dead woman won a seat in a municipal civic body election in Uttar Pradesh state, northern India. There’s no need to read that again; I said they voted for a dead woman. There are deep and serious sociopolitical, moral and philosophical issues that require unpacking in this story. Topping the list is how I’d love to see a photograph of the hopeless wastes of oxygen who were trounced by a corpse.

According to the Bijnor district officer, Bhagwan Sharan, the 30year-old candidate, Ashiya Bi, succumbed to a lung infection 12 days before the polls. Oh, what I’d do to be a fly on the bedroom wall during an altercation between one of the losing candidates and their spouse after the elections: “Don’t tell me not to raise my voice, Prakesh, or are you afraid that you’ll raise the dead woman and she’ll beat you again?”

Or maybe I’m projecting my immature instincts because I wouldn’t be able to resist the jibe.

Two of my high-school mates recently entered active politics. If either lost to a dead candidate I’d point out that it’s not any different from the able-bodied athletes who repeatedly lost to Oscar Pistorius.

In the words of teenagers during

PlayStation games: “Can it get any suckier than this?”

One of the things I’ve been a scratched CD about over the years is how difficult it is to satirise an already ludicrous story. And dead people winning elections is stretching the limits of absurdity.

However, I bet you that in an Olympics event called the Absurdity Relay, with South Africa as the anchor and India as the third runner handing us this story, the Brics team would gallop to a comfortable gold medal. I guarantee that South Africa could do better. For starters, in the original story, the voters knowingly put their cross next to Ms Bi in a deliberate political statement.

If this happened in the fictional Mshobingo Village, somewhere between eSibhoweni and Esiphahleni in the Mbazwana area of northern KwaZulu-Natal, it would make Uttar Pradesh seem like Duh News.

The veracity of the demise of the electoral candidate would be in dispute for several days. Social media would be littered with articles peppered with “we are receiving conflicting reports” and “the spokesperson distances the family”. Departmental and party regional communications offices would be a hive of keyboard pounding to flood the interwebs with statements beginning with the same sentence: “We note with concern the irresponsible and

Oh, what I’d do to be a fly on the bedroom wall during an altercation between one of the losing candidates and their spouse after the elections

misleading reports circulating on social media ...” And then, on the proverbial third day, there’d be a flood of reports of the allegedly dead candidate having been spotted at a Pie City in Mbazwana town (I’d say Woolies but I don’t think there is one there).

If you think that’s far-fetched, it’s because you didn’t follow the story surrounding the departed Maskandi artist Mgqumeni and some Gcabashe fellow. Amid confusion over whether the candidate was dead or alive, a coal truck would swerve to avoid a giant pothole and crash into a bridge — that’s the only connection to the rest of the world — collapsing it and making it impossible for IEC officials to set up voting stations.

At around this time, Eskom would decide that the moment was opportune to bring in a wolf in a sheep’s coat — stage 18 loadshedding advertised as stage 4.

This would be when Vodacom,

MTN and Cell C threw their networks in the air in despair as tower batteries died.

After five days of literal and informational darkness, without the benefit of wisdom from Newzroom Afrika studios and incisive analysis on Twitter and Facebook, the citizens of Mshobingo Village would go to the polls unsure whether their favourite candidate was alive.

If you think the above hallucinations stretch the limits of absurdity, remind yourself of events we’ve accepted, such as the story of a national commissioner who went suit and moccasins shopping with underworld Mafia types.

But we trust our leaders when they ask us to. We’ve sat through a ministerial briefing that said the presidential swimming pool fulfilled its constitutional mandate to protect the head of the executive, and we’ve had a dutiful wife to the minister of intelligence by day who was a crack dealer by night.

Even if you ignored everything else, your spirits might be lifted by the realisation that people in India who voted for a dead candidate pale in comparison to the people in this country who’ve paid billions in salaries to dead civil servants. You see; either way, we beat India. And no, I’m not just talking about “ghost” employees or politicians we glimpse on television, gasp and go: “He’s still alive — and in parliament!”

That’s how I felt when I recently read that Willie Madisha had resigned from COPE. Never mind my shock at discovering that COPE still exists and garners enough votes to be in parliament, but the last time I heard about Madisha he was baying like a donkey, trying to do a Naledi Pandor impersonation.

How many dead people have we paid salaries to over the years? I bet we could build another Medupi and give 10 more Eskom CEOs threeyear paid writing sabbaticals.





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