Saffer skandaals slay deepfakes

A reporter creates a deepfake video to show how easily it can be done. | AFP

A reporter creates a deepfake video to show how easily it can be done. | AFP

Published Mar 31, 2024


Durban — Skandaal, skinder, skullduggery and skeems (sorry about that).

Outlandish claims, denials and pie-in-the-sky policy promises. Eleventy-thousand new or newly allied political parties and independent candidates.

Coupled with an absence of shame or conscience, it is enough to make deepfakes obsolete in this country.

Saffers are so accustomed to being lied to, placing their trust in organisations and entities only to have it shattered, that most of us don’t believe a thing anyone says today. Who could possibly make a deepfake that is worse than reality?

Imagine a new world of deepfake, specially designed for us.

There could be one of a scurvy suit being videoed handing over a stuffed envelope or suitcase and saying: “I’m so sorry for stealing your money instead of investing it or spending it on water/electricity/ Lotto beneficiaries/hospitals/ schools like I was supposed to. Here is the full amount (in cash because I sold my couch to raise the money and now I have nowhere to stash it safely anyway) plus interest. Please return it to its rightful owner so they can use it as intended.”

There is no danger of this deepfake getting a second glance, apart from everyone adding snide comments, laughing-so-hardyou-cry emojis and making it go viral. You know how Saffers love to laugh in the face of our own despair and disaster. Or so we are repeatedly told.

The danger of a SA deepfake comes when this viral clip is examined to see who the “recipient” is. Is it a law enforcement officer? A court official? The National Prosecuting Authority? Another agency that is supposed to have Saffers’ backs in enforcing the Constitution?

We clutch at the hope that these bodies will be honest actors in citizens’ efforts and hopes of building a “new” new South Africa, in which integrity, honesty and a determination to do the right thing to benefit every one of us are restored. One in which shame, justice and consequence are reintroduced to offenders. Now, there is a suspension, special leave, reshuffle and, possibly, an “investigation”, before looking the other way.

One of the most important organisations for us as we head to the polls on May 29 is the Electoral Commission of South Africa. We can be sure the ugly, hateful Machiavellian manoeuvring in politics will escalate and increase. As far as we know, the IEC has maintained its integrity and will safeguard our rights to a free and fair election. But it never hurts to keep a beady eye on everyone involved in protecting our democracy.

We know brave, honest and trustworthy people who will do the right thing exist: we have seen enough of them flee the country to escape the wrath of those upon whom they have blown the whistle, lifted the lid, shone a light on the dirty goings-on. Or risk attempted or risk assassination. Being honest or asking too many questions can be a life-or-death affair.

Voters have tough decisions to make about who they think will best serve their interests.

Between now and X day, 27 million-odd registered voters should stop listening.

Make quiet time to study the manifestos. For those SA education has failed in reading for understanding, ask a trusted nonpartisan person to describe the main policies, the ones that matter to you. Ask yourself: Is it possible?

To those who have time to waste spreading deepfakes and lies – stay the hell out of our future. We have no space for skemers.

Independent on Saturday