Parliament was a bit of a mess last year. From the continued controversy that was Nkandla or the petty heckling between the opposition and the ruling party, at times the house resembled a schoolyard more than it did a legislative office. But it’s a new year now, and with it comes a renewed optimism that things just might be a bit different this time. So, in keeping up with the general tradition of compiling a list of goals and resolutions at the beginning of year, we’ve chalked up a few things we’d like to see in this year’s parliament:
Last year’s televised parliamentary sittings were a couple of things: at times funny (who can forget the EFF’s infamous “pay back the money” chant), other times petty and sometimes just downright disgraceful (think a couple of months back when riot police stormed the house to forcefully remove an EFF MP). Rarely, however, were the sittings ever conducted with the etiquette they demand and at times it seemed like MPs were deliberately stirring up controversy just for the sake of it. I mean, how else could you explain ANC MPs tabling a motion to “debate the loneliness of Mmusi Maimane”? So, this year, the keyword is: order. Order, comrades. While parliamentary scuffles make for good headlines, they don’t inspire much confidence from the electorate and they bring parliament into disrepute. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded as much and, in mid-November last year, urged the opposition and the ruling party’s MPs to make sure they kept the dignity of parliament intact.
“This is a house where the laws of our country are made and where the dignity of our people as a whole is actually represented,” said Ramaphosa.
Where do we even begin here? From the deathly silence regarding his homestead in Nkandla to the “spy tapes” saga and his evasiveness while fielding questions during the State of the Nation debate, President Jacob Zuma seems like a man who couldn’t be bothered with explaining himself. I mean, this is the same person who dismissed the Public Protector’s report on the irregular spending that accompanied his homestead’s security upgrades on the grounds that he didn’t ask for any of it. Seriously.
“They did this without telling me so why should I pay for something I didn’t ask for?” Zuma asked during an election campaign in Gugulethu last March. This “devil may care” attitude has also manifested itself in the chambers of parli and in November the opposition sought to put it to an end. A censure (an expression of strong disapproval) was tabled against the president for his non-attendance in parliament and failing to appear his prescribed quarterly questionings. The Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane, who tabled the censure, stated that by failing to appear at least once every term for questioning, the President had ‘failed to abide by this rule of his own accord and must therefore now be mandated to do so’.
There simply is no way around the matter: if this year’s going to be any different, President Zuma will have to stand before parliament and account for his
alleged misdemeanors. It’s probably the only way to restore credibility to both himself and parliament.
“Can’t we all just get along?”
This is probably just wishful thinking but wouldn’t be great if – to paraphrase Rodney King – all our MPs could along? Sure, by it’s very nature, politics is a divisive vocation. When people are situated at opposites ends of the ideological spectrum, disagreements are almost a certain eventuality. Still, it would be good to see everyone in parliament just afford each other a little respect (and by that I mean, resisting the impulse to call a fellow MP a ‘hired native‘). It would save everyone’s time, energy and it would mean the riot police could actually focus on dispersing actual riots. See why it makes sense? Here’s hoping that in 2015 everyone just gets along!
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