There’s an article on Moneyweb today in which the author, Sipho Ngcobo, bemoans just how wrong South Africa’s political commentators got their predictions about the elections. Although it’s not particularly well written, Ngcobo does make some fundamental points about the talking heads shooting off their mouths in terms of who was going to win what proportion of the vote.
Why DID these ‘experts’ get it so wrong? And, if there really was no way to predict how South Africans would vote, or if it was going to be so diffficult, why did they not just shut up and save face? Perhaps they all, apart from Allistair Sparks, who Ngcobo argues is the only one who managed to get it right, just did not know how much they really did not know…which is a more frightening thought. How much do these people actually NOT know? And how closely should we ‘non-expert’ citizens be listening to their opinions?
In one of the many, many, many interviews with political commentators on ETV on the day of the election, political analyst Stephen Friedman basically told a befuddled-sounding news presenter that surveys really only work when you’re asking people what toothpaste they use, rather than who they would vote for in an election. Perhaps it’s a fair point, but then why bother committing yourself as an expert analyst? Perhaps it’s better to just act like an ordinary voter, make your mark, and see how the chips fall.
Imagine a conversation between Adam Habib, Stephen Friedman and Susan Booysen:
AH: So who do you think is going to win the opposition vote?
SB: Erm, without a doubt Barack Obama.
SF: Susan! We’re talking about the South African election. Don’t be daft. Of course it’s going to be Telkom.
AH: Are any of you listening to me?! Oooh look, a birdie!!!
SF: Adam how many Confederations Cup tickets have been sold.
AH: I’m pretty sure it’s between 250 tickets and one hundred thousand.
SB: That MUST mean that the DA will get 4% of the vote.
AH: Ahhh, yes. I see why you would think that.
SF: Has anyone seen my toothpaste?