A Parliament of stalemates
....Let us be honest, it is crunch time in Parliament, and the stakes, as I pointed out last week, are way too high. And, given the way that things are going on—and Cabinet not being saints—there will be another incident for which there will be a motion to kick a minister, if not the entire Cabinet, out of Parliament until whatever decision has been implemented. When will this be, next week before the house adjourns for the period of Incwala, or next year when it gets underway?
In a couple of weeks or so, Parliament will take a break— for a few months, until the Incwala period is over. This means that Members of Parliament will be on an extended leave, and will hopefully go back to their constituencies to focus on the job at hand.
At most, this job at hand is plotting their comeback in next year’s national elections, and how that will be won. They will be holding several campaign activities, even if this is not yet the time. They will go around their tinkhundla making friends, if not buying them. They will spend the festive season throwing celebrations that can only be aimed at wooing over the electorate, and staging some sort of soccer activities designed to bring people to their side. In short, the electorate will be going on a charm offensive, often spending money they do not have.
That is significant, for it shows us how lucrative a parliamentary seat is, and that it has obviously become commercialised. The idealist in us will tell you that people with a burning ambition for politics should do so because they are selfless, and want to serve the public. People in politics, or who want to be in politics, should do so because they want to effect the change that the people will want. It should never be about money.
But, even for a small country like ours, politics have become a dangerous game, where those in power now want to stay longer, and will do anything to do so.
This is the narrative for our politicians—the MPs who have spent the majority of this year being at loggerheads with government— their counterparts at Hospital Hill, who they look at with envy. They have squared up for meaningless things and something for the right reasons.
Of course it is expected that they square up, but only if it is to the benefit of the public—not for their own benefit; not to show off; not for ego; not to coerce the public into thinking they mean anything with it. More importantly, not because they are envious of the front bench.
But, this sense that MPs are only interested in themselves more than the people refuses to leave one’s mind—even when the MPs speak till they froth for the people we often refer to as bogogo. It is without question that we should back the legislature on an issue that involves the paying of social grants for the elderly. However, I personally have a problem with how this has come out. As I wrote last week, I have a problem with how MPs just want to shout orders for Cabinet to go and find the money as if the money is tucked somewhere. I expect that Parliament appreciates our economic situation, or fiscal problem. I expect that they share as much the concern of where the money will come from. I therefore want to believe that they can’t keep saying spend here, spend there, without asking the question of how the money can be made available.
I basically expect better from them, even if it is expected that they will jump at the first opportunity to campaign for re-election by pretending to care about the people who have nothing and now depend on government for handout.So, to me, it makes sense that we reflect on our situation with maturity, hence Ia min total disagreement with MP Johane Shongwe’s behaviour a fortnight ago. In this regard, I am forced to agree with the stance the Prime Minister took to put his foot down and demand that this situation be handled by the Speaker of the House of Assembly. For me, this was way out of line, and MPs are beginning to take things too far.
I have no problem with the grandstanding to be honest. I accept that where we are, this is to be expected. But perhaps, that is the beginning of the end too. I thought, as a result of the position Cabinet took this week to say that Cabinet would no longer be going to Parliament unless, and until Parliament had dealt with MP Johane, this was the point at which we need to cut our losses.
They have been at it for far too long now it is becoming not just bothersome, but an expensive arrogance of power. We can’t carry this strain as a country and something needs to be done. Perhaps there is a point to be made as a result of this latest standoff. Fair enough, they have resolved the issue, and apparently the MP has apologised for his conduct. But, what next—and who is to say there won’t be a repeat, if not a similar stunt?
Let us be honest, it is crunch time in Parliament, and the stakes, as I pointed out last week, are way too high. And, given the way that things are going on—and Cabinet not being saints—there will be another incident for which there will be a motion to kick a minister, if not the entire Cabinet, out of Parliament until whatever decision has been implemented. When will this be, next week before the house adjourns for the period of Incwala, or next year when it gets underway?
While we do not have the date, we can bank on it happening again; not while we still have Phila Buthelezi, Sikhumbuzo Dlamini, and Johane Shongwe. Not while everyone thinks that people vote on the basis that one must scream loudest in Parliament, or be seen to be unapologetic to the prime minister and definitely Cabinet! Not while people want to puff their chests nje!
So, if that is the situation, then what gives? In fact, I was shocked to read that MPs sabotaged the special sitting on Friday, by adjourning for a break so that some of them would not return for the sitting after the break. This meant that the House did not form a quorum, and the business of the day was suspended. That is the kind of selfishness we are dealing with here. That is the level of maturity we have in our politicians—that they must boycott a sitting more than they have to endure it so that things are deliberated to their conclusion.
I mean, quite honestly, isn’t that just a little childish? But who are we? So long as we the electorate are forced to pay for their sitting allowances, and in this case despite that they did not finish the work! Fraud—that’s what they are!
But, let me not get emotional. The point is that, based on this constant bickering and defrauding of the people through the pretence that anyone cares, or that they can bark instructions and things will happen, even when we know they are just lying to themselves, isn’t it time we reconsider our options?
Perhaps the point can now be argued that parliamentarians are an expense— ngci. Perhaps actually, we can reach the conclusion that there is no value in their sittings in the next few months until the house is disbanded. In which case, wouldn’t it save us money— and we could use this to pay the same elderly grants— t o have Parliament disbanded in November to allow for them to prepare for the elections?
Let’s face it, what will we gain from them in the coming three months? In fact, until August or September next year?
When MPs return from the break, they will be preparing for the official opening of the parliament business. Then they will debate the budget, which is an open secret they have nothing to do with, by the way. Then they will go into the PAC where MP Thuli Dladla takes charge. Then there will be more bickering and squabbling over this, that or the other. They will suspend one minister or the other.
In the period, they will pass one or two Bills, nakhona with some sort of cajoling and instruction. And then Parliament will be disbanded.
Gosh, what an expensive mistake! And yet, here they are, tearing into pieces ministerial statements! abahambe! Clearly, if the Prime Minister can be prepared to work without Parliament involvement then it means it is possible. And don’t start telling me about the illegality or not of this, the point is, we are already not getting our money’s worth.
And tell me what important Bill Parliament has seen through without any outside intervention— not even the Sexual Offences Bill!