Last week’s earthquake was another opportunity for dodgy memes, including the tried-and-tested Mandoza ones. Although they are nothing new, the Mandoza and Jacob Zuma memes don’t seem to be going away. And although some of them are genuinely chuckle- or laugh-out-loud worthy, a close and honest look at them reveals that they rely heavily on the “illiterate/dumb black” stereotype.
In 2014, it’s still funny that Mandoza can’t speak English “properly” or that Zuma got R939 360 000 wrong in a speech last year.
And much like blackface comedy, it’s largely funny because it’s still considered hilarious when black people aren’t the exceptional black and speak “perfect” English.
English as a signifier of intelligence is problematic. So it’s not funny that the creator of the meme would think Mandoza wouldn’t know the difference between an earthquake and a volcano, that Zuma wouldn’t know the difference between lobola and Ebola and Julius Malema would demand a higher Richter scale rating as if it was a wage demand.
The memes – and this kind of humour – says a lot about how South Africans view themselves and black people.
– Gugulethu Mhlungu