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