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What I’d like to see in politics in 2016

by: Rofhiwa Maneta - 21 January 2016

FeesMustFall March to the Union Building_ Oct 2015_ ©Siya Mkhasibe_  61

Last year was a decidedly turbulent one in South African politics. The State of the Nation Address (SONA) was marred by violence, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was given the boot and Fees Must Fall highlighted the inequalities that still exist in higher education. But, hope springs eternal and with the SONA a little over a month away, here’s what I’d like to see happen in South African politics in 2016:

A return to sanity in parliament

I don’t think anyone will forget the insanity that was last year’s SONA. The DA staged a walkout, EFF members were thrown out of parliament while journalists and the opposition alleged that their cellphone signals had been jammed. It was a hot mess!

Sure, the entire episode provided plenty of entertainment (EFF famously asked if President Jacob Zuma would pay back the money via EFT) but that’s not the stated purpose of a SONA is it? Similarly, the rest of year was also blighted with an assortment of nonsense: MPs routinely heckled each other; DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, was accused of selling drugs and Jacob Zuma famously laughed off the Nkandla allegations.

Is it too much to ask for a little bit of sanity this year? With an economy teetering on the brink of recession and racial tensions currently running high, I think we’d all appreciate it if the country’s highest legislative body carried itself with a bit more decorum.

Fees actually falling

When the president announced a zero percent fee increase for university fees, I remember the wave of disappointment that subsequently made its way across my body. Sure, a zero percent increase is a start in the right direction, but it still doesn’t do much for anyone who couldn’t afford education in 2016. If you couldn’t afford last year’s fees, what’s it going to help to keep the fees exactly the same?

If only one positive thing happens this year, let it be this: fees must fall.

Criminalizing racism

Things started off on a sour note for the “Rainbow Nation” this year. Three days into 2016, Penny Sparrow’s Facebook status calling black people monkeys went viral. A few weeks later, Nicole de Klerk, also drew the ire of South Africans when she used the k-word at the L’Omarins Queens Plate in Cape Town. All of this, while everyone was still coming down from the euphoria of December’s festivities.

It was all good just a week ago.

Following the Sparrow incident, the ANC released a statement, calling for the criminilisation of racism.

“The current legislative provisions are not sufficient to punish and dissuade racists. As the majority party in parliament, we will soon investigate creating a specific law or amending the existing legislation to ensure that acts of racism and promotion of apartheid are criminalized and punishable by imprisonmnent,” the statement said.

We can only hope that this becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

Photography by Siyabonga Mkhasibe