Defence minister on parliamentary ruckus – “we’re not a banana republic”

If we’re not a banana republic – then what was the executive doing riding roughshod and illegally over parliament yesterday evening? Senior lecturer in Public Law at UCT, Dr Cathleen Powell, made no bones about it; the DA’s walk out and claim that the police presence in parliament and the army outside was unconstitutional is correct. If true, police carrying cable ties and syringes is also highly illegal. This was not something that parliament organised – it was the executive. The EFF’s refusal to allow the President to speak was equally illegal, even if their rumpus upon being forcibly removed was not (excepting perhaps the assaults on parliamentary protection staff). Then there’s the corralling of journalists doing their jobs in parliament and photographers outside being ordered not take pictures (of peaceful pre-SONA activities) – without any explanation for the latter being given. To make their point, the DA and perhaps the National Editor’s Forum, will have to go to court. That’s how civilised we’ve become; unable to talk things out any more, resorting to force, threat and the law courts. As much as we’re tempted to write it all off as parliamentary buffoons doing their annual pantomime, the scary bit is the example they’re setting our nation – and the racial divisions it’s sowing. Witness the racial slurs hurled about in parliament – and then check out your own sentiments and those of your nearest and dearest while watching it play out on TV.  Not lekka…Kubi Bo! – Chris Bateman

By Donwald Pressly*

Donwald Pressly

One cannot make up the political tale in South Africa. All one’s worst fears about the state of the nation came to the fore at President Jacob Zuma’s opening of parliament address. Despite the noise, the parliamentary opposition has been reduced to eunuchs. Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema said to the evicting white dressed security staff: “There is no problem just kill me…”

After Leader of the Official Opposition Mmusi Maimane’s call for a moment of silence for the Esidimeni deaths was rejected, Maimane led the official opposition Democratic Alliance’s walkout from the National Assembly – but not before the DA caucus stood in silence. As the DA Members of Parliament walked out, ANC MPs cheered their withdrawal. One voluble ANC MP screamed “fuck off you racist”, apparently at DA chief whip John Steenhuisen. There was confusion, however, in the barrage of noise but it appeared that Maimane was also branded a “a sellout and a racist” by an ANC MP.

The only thing the governing party had in common with the opposition parties was that the business of the day, the protects and the order of the removal of the EFF MPs was done in a common language, English. It was virtually the only point of commonality throughout the Fawlty Towers’ like affair, a strange irony in the context of a nation-wide movement away from ‘white’ traditions reflecting the country’s colonial past.

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President Zuma ‘you are a constitutional delinquent’

What was one to make of President Zuma? This is what the opposition thinks of him. “You are a constitutional delinquent. Please leave (the chamber of the national assembly),” said Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a leading Economic Freedom Fighters’ MP. Maimane, speaking outside the Assembly after his party followed the evicted EFF out, made no bones about what he thought of the president. He was “a criminal”. He put it bluntly and he said it outside of the protection of Parliament.

To give an idea of just how much South Africa has been ‘captured’ by a criminal class, one only has to switch TV channels from eNCA – which at least attempts to be fair and balanced – to ANN7, the Gupta-family owned channel. While it was hard for ANN7 not to capture the chaos of the day, it did try its best. Reporting on the president’s speech, it carried the headline: “President Zuma urges more South African women to consider farming.” One simply cannot make it up. A president out of touch with reality and a compliant media organisation reflecting an Orwellian reality.

Commentator and human rights activist Rhoda Kadalie provided her impressions of the state of the nation. “The nation is in a state. The opposition is disorganised and needs a better strategy to deal with Parliament before SONA (the state of the nation). They are weak and don’t inspire confidence. The ANC is clearly infiltrated as much as the EFF is infiltrated.” By bringing in the SANDF to keep the peace at parliament – a matter of great controversy in the lead up to Sona – “Zuma was showing Malema that he is in charge…Malema’s anger is personal. It is no longer political so he is losing his case.” One is not sure of Kadalie’s view on that one, but she is right that the speech – which was finally delivered an hour and a half late – was “populist”. Radical Economic Transformation, more state intervention in racial nationalism, BBBEE (broad-based black economic empowerment)…land capture, she described it. Indeed, she is right – well sort of – that the president had lost control of the country as he was sullied by corruption. An example of his populist message was: “Liberation will be meaningful if wealth is returned to the people.” It is an ominous stance as it implies that anyone with wealth – and he obviously was referring to white people – got it irregularly. At best it is the pot calling the kettle black.

Where to from now? South Africa goes through a mini-crisis each year at the opening of parliament. This year it was worse than before. But it is likely that the country will bumble on, with our Albatross-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, stumbling on in office until the last possible moment. He remains at the centre of South Africa’s political logjam, as uninspiring – and as politically besieged – as he is.

  • Donwald Pressly, editor, Cape Messenger
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