Seis­mic shift

ANC is no l onger the force it was, as it is bom­barded with con­stant chal­lenges from the EFF

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - BAR­BER­SHOP GIRL Ran­jeni Munusamy

IT is no w app arent that ther e has been a seis­mic shift in South African pol­i­tics. T he ANC al­lianc e is no longer the un­chal­lenged dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal force it was, and by no means can it shape pub­lic opin­ion as it used t o.

Par­lia­ment is no longer a place where our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives go through the mo­tions of pass­ing leg­is­la­tion and dose off dur­ing long ­winded deb ates.

Since the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) be­came the sec ond­largest op­po­si­tion party in South Africa, it has turned Par­lia­ment into a po­lit­i­cal b at­tle­field, chal­leng­ing the ANC at e very op­por­tu­nity, stag­ing protests and reg­u­larly get­ting booted out of the H ouse for un­rul y beha viour.

South Africa has had its fair share of drama in Par­lia­ment in the p ast. Who can f or­get Cape Town mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille, in her for­mer in­car­na­tion as a Pan Africa­nis t C ongress M em­ber of Par­lia­ment, belt­ing out names of ANC heavy­weights whom she claimed w ere in­volved in cor­rup­tion in the arms deal?

In Septem­ber 1998, fists flew in the House when for­mer Na­tional Party MP Manie Schoe­man and the ANC’s Johnny de Lang e came t o blo ws.

And then there was the dra­matic mo­ment f ormer pr es­i­dent T habo Mbeki “re­lieved” then deputy pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of his du­tie s.

The heat ed deb ates and c on­fronta­tions in the p ast, were noth­ing c om­pared with what has hap­pened since the ar­rival of the EFF’ s r ed brig ade.

Last month, the riot polic e w ere called in w hen the EFF dis­rupt ed the pres­i­dent’s que stion time, de­mand­ing that he re­im­burse the state for the non­se­cu­rity up­grades at his Nkandla home.

That in­ci­dent chang ed the at­mos­phere in P ar­lia­ment, with height ened se­cu­rity mea­sures and ev­ery­one on edge dur­ing ma­jor deb ates.

EFF MPs have fallen foul of the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers for un­par­lia­men­tary lan­guage and dis­rupt­ing deb ates.

This week, a mo­tion of no on­fi­dencec in the speaker of Par­lia­ment was de­bat­ ed as five op­po­si­tion par­ties led by the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA) ar­gued that Baleka Mbete is un­able to main­tain or­der in the H ouse. T hey also c on­sider her po­si­tion as chair­per­son of the ANC com­pro­mises her imp ar­tial­ity.

The ANC came out in fierce de­fence of Mbete, main­tain­ing that she is do­ing her best un­der the cir­cum­stances, as the EFF’s man­date is to ren­der con­sis­tently the House chaotic.

The de­bate dis­in­te­grated into a fra­cas as ANC and op­po­si­tion MP s re­sorted to name­call­ing and in­sults, with Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli and pre­sid­ing offic er C edrick F rolick b attling a vol­ley of point s of or der.

Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula called DA par­lia­men­tary leader Mmusi M aimane “a to­ken black” from a party with “fas­cist ten­den­cies”, and dis­missed the EFF as “char­la­tans”, “losers” and “hyp­ocrites” who have the au­dac­ity to ques­tion the ANC’ s de­plo yment polic y.

ANC MP Bertha Mabe worked her­self into such a rage dur­ing her speech that she mut­tered the word “bas­tards!” when she left the podium.

On Wed­nes­day, the House was again in dis­ar­ray dur­ing Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s ques­tion ses­sion, with the EFF and D A seek­ing t o pin him down on his role in the Marikana mas­sacre. EFF leader J ulius M alema charged that Ramaphosa had “blood on his hands” as he had been “driven by profit” as a shar eholder of Lon­min.

Malema re­fused Mbete’s in­struc­tion to with­draw th­ese com­ments, and was in­structed t o lea ve the H ouse. Try­ing to jus tify his leader’ s ut ter­ances, EFF MP Floyd Shivambu called Ramaphosa a “mur­derer” and was also given march­ ing or ders. B efore lea ving the H ouse, Shivambu gave Ramaphosa the mid­dle fin­ger. Are the se all signs of a s trong, vi­brant democr acy or jus t noise ?

It is not clear w het­her the t en­sions and the cross­fire are hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on the pr oduc­tiv­ity of P ar­lia­ment. It might be en­ter­tain­ing to watch, but it c ould also cause pub­lic dis­il­lu­sion­ment over the s tate of politic s. A ques­tion to be asked is whether our politi­cians en­joy the con­fi­dence of the peo­ple they claim t o r ep­re­sent. Or w ould they also g et the mid­dle fing er? • Ran­jeni Munusamy is a po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and com­men­ta­tor for the Daily Mav­er­ick. r an­[email protected]

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