Here’s the good news

2015-02-22 15:00

South Africa ended a fragile week in better shape, highlighting its democratic resilience. That is a good sign.

Horrified by the events in Parliament last week, the body politic and civil society showed their mettle by earning several key concessions that did not ­negate what happened, but showed an ability for self-reflection and correction that was healthy.

.?Signal jamming in Parliament will not happen again, as determined by a pledge made to the high court by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, this week.

.?The vital control of the parliamentary broadcast feed is also subject to a court case. Strict rules govern the feed, but these have proven inadequate. The ­interpretation last week meant the public broadcaster, which controls the feed, did not show the forced ­removals from the House or the walkout of the opposition. This is being challenged in court.

.?Mbete also made a considered apology to ­Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema after calling him a cockroach at the weekend. This same insult was used by the Interahamwe in Rwanda during the genocide there to encourage the murders of Tutsi nationals. In turn, Malema again apologised to DA leader Helen Zille, as he used the same word to describe her five years ago.

This is important, because the descent into name-calling can quickly get violent, as we have seen in many countries, like Rwanda, where the conflict ­escalated into brutal slaughter.

.?The security state was highlighted. For a long time now, intelligence and security have extended their arms into areas of political contestation. This is dangerous, as the remit of intelligence (both in the state and police) should be limited to appraising risk to the nation-state, not the governing party.

The role of state security in jamming the communications in the National Assembly was unprecedented. Because the issue was contested, Minister of State Security David Mahlobo apologised.

His answers about what happened were unconvincing and require challenge, but the apology is a good sign that state security can be mediated by civil and political society.

.?The “broken man speech” by the DA’s leader of the opposition in Parliament, Mmusi Maimane, struck a chord.

President Zuma’s response two days later was geared at revealing he was not broken. An animated president moved to fix things in a considered manner. His speech touched the key bases and included an ­important history lesson for conservative South Africa, as well as a lesson in nonracialism for all of us.

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