MP fights paint grim pic­ture

Saturday Star - - OPINION -

THIS week, the Na­tional As­sem­bly had to be sus­pended while the Ser­jeant-at-arms and his staff sep­a­rated brawl­ing MPS and es­corted them from the precinct.

This is not the first time that pro­ceed­ings have de­scended into vi­o­lence, but it is the first time that MPS have phys­i­cally at­tacked one an­other.

Be­fore, the house would de­scend into chaos when the EFF would protest against the pres­i­dency of Ja­cob Zuma.

This time, though, it was a mem­ber of the EFF tak­ing is­sue with some­thing that a fel­low op­po­si­tion MP from Cope had said.

Whether it was the forced ejec­tion of MPS dur­ing Zuma’s abortive State of the Na­tion Ad­dresses or the un­seemly brawl this week, it is an ill omen for a house where free de­bate is sup­posed to be en­shrined as the hall­mark of the peo­ple’s apex fo­rum in this the 24th year of our democ­racy.

Later this week, the IEC re­minded us that the next gen­eral elec­tions would prob­a­bly be held next May, which of course is tech­ni­cally cor­rect since the last elec­tions were held in May 2014. The pres­i­dent can call an elec­tion any time be­fore then.

We are about to be plunged into an elec­tion at a crit­i­cal in­flec­tion point in this coun­try’s his­tory.

Wild claims, in­flam­ma­tory state­ments – even calls to (fig­u­ra­tive) arms will be made, as par­ties do their damnedest to ex­hort their mem­bers and oth­ers to go out to vote.

The prob­lem is that just as the stakes have rarely been higher, so have our tem­pers rarely been as frayed or the schisms be­tween us quite as stark.

If politi­cians can­not de­bate with­out lit­er­ally punch­ing each other in Par­lia­ment, what hope do we re­al­is­ti­cally have of a peace­ful elec­toral cam­paign, to say noth­ing of an elec­tion that is free and fair, es­pe­cially of in­tim­i­da­tion?

This coun­try needs lead­er­ship – right now.

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