Parly’s a joke but booze is no laughing matter

2015-06-11 17:43

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Forget the riveting scenes of Game of Thrones, or the snot en trane from Grey’s Anatomy. The TV shocker to outshock them all this week was, once again, Parly TV. 

Hong hong hong ... Willie Madisha’s mocking of Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor last night in Parliament had the country in stitches. 

It’s definitely going to be added to my list of YouTube videos to watch when I’m down

After Madisha’s shenanigans, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula took the high road, pronouncing that Parliament’s bar influenced people’s behaviour in the house, and suggested it close as early as possible. 

The people’s favourite, Floyd Shivambu, added fuel to the fire, saying: “If you were to bring a breathalyser [to Parliament], the majority of ANC MPs won’t pass the test.” 

It was brilliant viewing. Except for one thing: Drinking on the job is not okay anywhere else. Why should it be accepted in Parliament? 

I would love to know how much money is blown at Parliament’s bar; money that could be used to feed people or, in an appropriate gesture, build a rehabilitation centre. 

Last night’s behaviour from our leaders seems a bit hypocritical, considering the increase in sin taxes, a proposal to up the legal drinking age, the masses of red tape for liquor licence applications, and a draft law that would make bartenders responsible for the actions of the drunk. 

To be fair, politicians and booze isn’t a new thing. Former United States president George W Bush was arrested for driving under the influence in the 1970s. 

British politicians have a long history of imbibing, including the story of William Pitt the Younger, who in 1783 – the year he became prime minister – threw up behind the speaker’s chair before continuing a debate. 

And don’t forget Winston Churchill’s brilliant retort to politician Bessie Braddock, who accused him of being drunk: “I may be drunk ... but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.” 

But South Africa has a serious booze problem. According to a World Health Organisation report released in 2014, globally, individuals above 15 years of age drink on average 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year. South Africa’s figure is 11 litres, which puts it among the highest per capita consumption rates in the world. 

Still think it’s funny? 

In South Africa, the “estimates made of the combined tangible and intangible costs of harmful use of alcohol to the economy reached nearly R300 billion or 10% to 12% of the 2009 gross domestic product”, according to the report. 

Parliament is the place where rules are passed and standards are set. Our politicians should be leading by example. 

This irresponsible, juvenile behaviour may be entertaining, but running a country is no joke. If politicians would start taking it more seriously, maybe fewer people would be starving. 

And maybe next time the government tries to put measures in place to curb South Africa’s booze problem, it won’t ring hollow.

Alison Visser
Alison Visser is a journalist and digital subeditor at City Press

Read more on:    naledi pandor  |  willie madisha  |  cape town  |  parliament 2015

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