Mmusi Maimane is a good-looking guy. The camera, as they say, loves him. You get the feeling that, if he hadn’t gone into politics, he could have been an actor, a model ... or at the very least a Top Billing presenter, if he wasn’t quite so earnest (Top Billing doesn’t do earnest). He’s a charismatic public speaker. He’s a snappy dresser. All in all, he offers a combination of appealing features that is rare – if not unprecedented – in South African politicians.
His detractors have, however, criticised this glossy packaging. Writing for BDlive, for example, Gareth van Onselen repeatedly complained during Maimane’s rise through the ranks of the Democratic Alliance that the man is all style and no substance, all Hollywood and no policy. I take the view that politics is, sadly, primarily about style: it’s how you come across to audiences at a rally or on TV, it’s how you are perceived by members of your own party, it’s the brand you offer to potential voters.