Politicians favour their entitlement
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an executive editor at the Pretoria News. Follow him on
@fikelelom HE PRESIDENT is entitled to security and some level of comfort. The majority party is entitled to choose among its Members of Parliament anyone they wish to have as the Speaker of the House.
The majority party is entitled to use party discipline to ensure that their MPs vote for or against a motion.
The official opposition party is entitled to filibustering if the majority party does not allow for proper debate in Parliament.
The EFF is entitled to dress as they wish in Parliament because there is no universal rule that men must wear suits and ties.
I hope that even if you agree with any of these, you will add a but…
For everything that has been said and can be said about South African MPs, they cannot be accused of not being representative of the public that sent them to Parliament.
Like us, they place their entitlement ahead of everything else.
Different racial groups, men and women like to accuse the other of having a sense of entitlement but truth is that we all have it. Our politicians, as they showed us last week, similarly have the same sense of entitlement.
We have politicians and not statesmen in our midst.
Politicians are always interested in the next elections and in keeping or taking power, whereas statesmen are interested in enduring political legacies.
In many instances, they want power as an end to itself and not so they can change society for the better.
Our politicians, across party and ideological leaning, would be left with nothing to talk about if by some miracle poverty, inequality and unemployment were defeated. They would have nothing to sell the electorate.
They have overstated the role of political ideology as that which keeps South Africans awake at night.
Again the words of Guinea-Bissau and pan-Africanist revolutionary Amilcar Cabral hold true for our politicians.
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”
We could ask that the politicians start telling us how they interpret and see us living better and in peace, see our lives go forward and our children’s futures guaranteed. That I think would be dereliction of our duty as citizens and patriots.
You and I must fashion the template that we want our politicians to follow.
TWe must create and agree on common values by which we expect those who represent us in the lawmaking houses to live by. This must hold true for the head of state as for the lowest backbencher.
For instance, we must demand that those in charge feel a sense of shame when huge amounts of taxpayer money is spent in their backyards or for their travelling arrangements.
It must be a non debate that we cannot have a public representative who is guilty of domestic violence in his own home or stands accused of stealing from the public purse.
We must get to a stage where racism denialism is treated in the same way as climate change and HIV-causes-Aids denialism.
We would not have learnt anything over the years if we think that politicians will engender these and other values we might develop as a society.
As the examples above show, politicians are interested in what they are entitled to.
As citizens we are collectively responsible for this state of affairs.
We have abdicated all our reasoning and agency to political parties. We have given politicians the right to think that we serve them and not the other way around.
Political parties are not necessarily moral or ethical agencies. They are most certainly not think-tanks.
Left to them, we would have a society where before we agree or disagree with anything we would have to check the political leanings of the person saying or writing.
We would have a situation where decision on where and how to spend public money is premised on the political returns of that investment.
Society must take up the duty of creating values by which future generations of politicians will be judged, regardless of the ‘ism’ they espouse.
As citizens and political parties we can agree that the president should not have to live in a garden cottage or drive himself in an entry level Tata Indica; that being the official opposition must allow for your voice to be heard; of course we must not dress in a certain way simply because others before us did.
Beyond all this, everyone involved must remember that they are creating a template for future behaviour of those who will occupy the same benches and live in the same society.
We must all ask ourselves whether the legacy of entitlement and indifference is one we would like our generation to be remembered by.
OVERBOARD? As citizens we have to realise that we are creating a template for the future behaviour of those holding high positions, which means that the Nkandla saga could possibly be repeated.