ZUMA ERA HAS RAPED OUR DIGNITY

The shame­ful show of force, slurs and phys­i­cal blows ac­com­pa­ny­ing the state of the na­tion ad­dress in­di­cate just how low SA has sunk,

CityPress - - Front Page - writes Mondli Makhanya

Dec­o­rat­ing the par­lia­men­tary precinct dur­ing the state of the na­tion ad­dress (Sona) week was a beau­ti­ful mu­ral de­pict­ing th­ese ad­dresses since the birth of our re­pub­lic. The pic­tures en­cap­su­late the sense of oc­ca­sion that al­ways ac­com­pa­nies the open­ing of Par­lia­ment. You get a sense of dignity, cel­e­bra­tion, solem­nity, joy, cer­e­mony, se­ri­ous­ness, power, cul­ture and di­ver­sity. The mu­ral gives you a warm feel­ing and re­minds you why we do this an­nual rit­ual of cel­e­brat­ing our democ­racy, and why – in spite of the cost and crit­i­cisms – it should be a fix­ture on the na­tional cal­en­dar.

Then you get to 2009, the start of the Ja­cob Zuma era. There is a pho­to­graph of the pres­i­dent, the deputy pres­i­dent and the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers of the na­tional leg­is­la­ture. What is most strik­ing about this pho­to­graph is that the pres­i­dent is ac­com­pa­nied by his three wives. (This was be­fore he went shop­ping for more). It is jar­ring. It her­alds the begin­ning of our rapid slide into in­dig­nity.

Fast-for­ward to 2015. There is a pic­ture of the pres­i­dent walk­ing into the Na­tional Assem­bly with MPs stand­ing, as pro­to­col de­mands.

As fawn­ing gov­ern­ing party MPs clap, Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters (EFF) mem­bers re­main seated, scorn­fully glar­ing at the man who has just en­tered the cham­ber.

We re­mem­ber now that this was the day of the sig­nal jam­ming, the in­tro­duc­tion of the white-shirted thugs and Zuma ad­dress­ing a nearly half-empty house. In­dig­nity was ce­mented on that day.

If you had any doubt that Zuma’s legacy would be that of break­ing the dignity of the re­pub­lic, the events of Sona 2017 would have put paid to that.

Thurs­day night was hor­ri­ble. You could feel a sink­ing mood through­out that sear­ing Cape sum­mer day.

Cape Town had the feel of a city un­der siege. Po­lice units armed with heavy weaponry and kilo­me­tres upon kilo­me­tres of ra­zor wire had set up camp in var­i­ous open spa­ces in the City Bowl, pre­par­ing for what­ever en­emy was about to in­vade.

The city cen­tre was crawl­ing with armed men in uni­form, man­ning the ring of steel that had been set up the day be­fore. The mil­i­tary was in town, lurk­ing all over the show in their men­ac­ing ar­moured ve­hi­cles and weapons of war. He­li­copters hov­ered above.

Pub­lic ser­vants were be­ing sent home early, and, on some usu­ally busy streets, the shop shut­ters were down. By lunchtime, hawk­ers were pack­ing their goods and writ­ing off the day.

The day of the cel­e­bra­tion of our democ­racy had been turned into a day of armed strength and a day of panic.

That night in the House of Assem­bly, the dignity, moral­ity and hu­man­ity of our con­sti­tu­tional re­pub­lic re­ceived fur­ther deadly blows. When a straight­for­ward re­quest for a minute’s si­lence for the more than 100 Life Esidi­meni health scandal vic­tims was turned down by the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers, sim­ply be­cause it came from an op­po­si­tion party, it marked a new low in par­ti­san­ship.

What made it worse was the anger with which the ANC benches re­acted to the re­quest, and the ap­plause with which they greeted the de­ci­sion to turn it down.

The mem­bers of the party of “105 years of self­less strug­gle” just could not rise above them­selves to hon­our the vic­tims of the tragedy, most of whom were black and poor. As Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete put it, it was more ap­pro­pri­ate to “pro­ceed with the busi­ness of the House as planned” and post­pone the mourning for a week.

Even in Ice­land it would be hard to find a colder and more in­hu­mane at­ti­tude.

The lan­guage spo­ken in the House dragged the dignity fur­ther down the tubes.

With words like tsotsi, scoundrel, thief, crim­i­nal, men­emene and sela be­ing used to de­scribe their leader, some Zuma loy­al­ists could not con­tain them­selves and hurled back in­sults. Racists, dogs, f**k you and sh*t were some of the stones they lobbed back.

Then came the in­evitable mo­ment, the one that the na­tion will re­mem­ber the 2017 Sona by. The vi­o­lent scenes were the most vile we have wit­nessed since par­lia­men­tary sit­tings be­came a tele­vi­sion must-see. Even those voyeurs who stock up on liquor and meat in an­tic­i­pa­tion of great view­ing would have had their cit­i­zen souls deeply pained by what they saw.

The only peo­ple who seemed not to be pained were the ANC MPs, who clapped and laughed while their once-hal­lowed cham­ber was in­vaded by heav­ies, who beat up their fel­low par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

And, of course, the pres­i­dent couldn’t hide his sig­na­ture gig­gle as the events un­folded.

Glass shards in the cor­ri­dors and bro­ken win­dows and pic­ture frames bore wit­ness to a bat­tle that had con­tin­ued out­side the House and would con­tinue into the rest of 2017.

On the con­course there was an eerie at­mos­phere. Po­lice­men in riot gear stood in for­ma­tion, wait­ing for or­ders to do heaven knows what. Their com­man­ders stood in a hud­dle, pre­sum­ably dis­cussing tac­tics for heaven knows what. Op­po­si­tion lead­ers who had ei­ther been kicked out or walked out of the House held im­promptu press con­fer­ences in the dark about this dark day.

Inside the House, Zuma de­liv­ered his dron­ing ad­dress as if noth­ing out of the or­di­nary had hap­pened.

Few re­ally cared what he was say­ing. The ANC benches were a sea of bored faces. They re­sem­bled hostages inside a tor­ture cham­ber be­ing forced into sub­mis­sion by be­ing com­pelled to watch Lil­lian and Des­mond Dube flog­ging Clien­tele Life prod­ucts.

Many played with their phones and some doo­dled on their note­books. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber dozed off. Soonto-be-father Mandla Man­dela’s eyes were shut much of time, but it is un­clear whether he was sleep­ing or think­ing about the mir­a­cle of con­cep­tion.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Zuma de­liv­ered his real state of the na­tion ad­dress in the com­pany of those with whom he has raped South Africa’s dignity. He was his real self when he spoke at a Gupta-spon­sored break­fast, say­ing the things that the sculp­tors of his Sona speech would not let him say. The tone of in­vestor con­fi­dence­build­ing was tossed out the win­dow just 12 hours af­ter the scripted speech in which he had bal­anced rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion rhetoric with prac­ti­cal gover­nance pro­grammes.

Here he put on his Gupta ser­vant hat and lashed out at the per­ceived en­e­mies of his mas­ters – the evil banks, which saw fit to stop their in­sti­tu­tions from be­ing used by that fam­ily for ne­far­i­ous pur­poses. There was no op­po­si­tion to in­ter­ject.

In much of the com­men­tary about Thurs­day night’s vi­o­lent episode there was ref­er­ence to how for­eign per­cep­tions of our democ­racy would be af­fected when the vi­su­als went global, as they did. But that should not be our main con­cern. Our pri­mary con­cern should be about how we dig our­selves out of this state of in­dig­nity into which we jumped in 2009. This state in which the cor­rupt and amoral are main­stream and the up­stand­ing are seen as dis­rupters. The state in which our house of laws pays lip ser­vice to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the apex court that en­forces that sa­cred con­tract. Where se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion and mil­i­tari­sa­tion are be­ing nor­malised and where the lines of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers are be­ing blurred. We should be con­cerned about the strip­ping of the dignity of our in­sti­tu­tions for the sake of some­one whose wishes and per­sonal in­ter­ests they were all there to serve.

In good time, Zuma will be gone. Whether the exit is dig­ni­fied or not may no longer be up to him or his lieu­tenants. There is an an­gry na­tion that wants its dignity back and a his­tor­i­cally no­ble party whose gen­uine mem­bers and elders want to re­store its dig­ni­fied face. That is the mood in South Africa right now. It was pal­pa­ble this week.

South Africans want Par­lia­ment to be a real house of laws and a voice for their as­pi­ra­tions and needs. They want to see a gov­ern­ing party that does its job, an op­po­si­tion that of­fers al­ter­na­tives and the pos­si­bil­ity of change. They want a so­ci­ety that as­pires to the Con­sti­tu­tion’s in­junc­tion that “ev­ery­one has in­her­ent dignity and the right to have their dignity re­spected and pro­tected”.

They long for the dignity of their coun­try to be re­spected again.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Zuma de­liv­ered his real state of the na­tion ad­dress in the com­pany of those with whom he has raped SA’s dignity

PHOTO: TREVOR KUNENE

RING OF STEEL SA Po­lice Ser­vice mem­bers main­tain law and or­der around the Par­lia­ment precinct dur­ing the state of the na­tion ad­dress. Chaos, vi­o­lence and in­sults reigned as EFF mem­bers were force­fully ejected from the cham­ber af­ter hold­ing up pro­ceed­ings and ac­cus­ing Zuma of be­ing a 'con­sti­tu­tional delin­quent'

PHOTO: EPA

LAUGH­ING WHILE ROME BURNS Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma de­liv­ered his 10th state of the na­tion ad­dress in Par­lia­ment in Cape Town on Thurs­day. More than 400 sol­diers had been de­ployed in and around the city cen­tre. The build-up to his add ress was char­ac­terised by taunt­ing and vi­o­lence which, once quelled, was dis­missed by a gig­gling Zuma

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