“Crocodile tears” is a well-known phrase that refers to a disingenuous display of emotion, typically sadness or distress.

The term is derived from an ancient anecdote which suggests that crocodiles weep whilst they’re devouring their prey. Evidently, this is false, yet it’s a fitting metaphor for people who feign feelings they do not genuinely possess.

The idea behind this term can be applied in a multitude of contexts, especially when observing public figures or politicians. For instance, consider a certain South African president who presents himself on television, tearful and apparently heartbroken over the struggles faced by his constituents during the Covid pandemic. He pronounces how deeply he empathises with their plights, emphasising his personal investment in bettering their circumstances.

Yet, when off camera, he takes no real action to ameliorate the situation or mitigate the suffering of his constituents.

His legislative votes consistently undermine the interests of his community, demonstrating a significant discrepancy between his professed sentiments and his actual actions. This scenario represents a classic example of “crocodile tears” in which the president’s public display of grief and empathy are no more than a pretence; a strategy designed to maintain public favour without requiring him to follow through on his proclaimed intentions.

The president lampooned in my cartoon is obviously Cyril Ramaphosa.

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