Insults are no debate

2014-09-21 15:00

The lively exchanges in this new term of Parliament have been welcomed for breathing life into what used to be a flat and sleepy House.

Members of the executive now understand that they are actually expected to account to the legislature in a substantial manner. Gone are the days when they would pitch and be made to look good with sweetheart questions from ANC MPs.

President Jacob Zuma learnt this the hard way when he tried to prevaricate with an irrelevant response to questions on Nkandla. He was rudely reminded that the question referred to when he was going to pay back the Nkandla money, as recommended by the Public Protector.

But being robust is not the same as being uncouth. Debate should not be reduced to exchanging insults and expletives. While chaos has become synonymous with Parliament recently, the behaviour of some MPs this week was particularly shameful.

ANC MP Bertha Peace Mabe was at her worst, calling DA leader Mmusi Maimane a rented black and “moruti wa tsotsi” (a fake priest). She went on to display behaviour that reflected badly on her character when she called Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu “bloody bastards”.

At a time when the ANC has accused the EFF of disrespecting the House, Mabe was proof that whatever misconduct Malema and Shivambu display, they learnt it from the ANC – where they spent most of their youth.

Shivambu proved that he is still the immature, petulant young man he was when he was expelled from the ANC. By showing the deputy president of the country the middle finger in Parliament, Shivambu diminished all the goodwill and respect the EFF had built among citizens who want the executive to be held to higher standards of accountability. He showed that his behaviour and that of other EFF MPs often emanates from their bitter experiences with the ANC.

Malema actually posed some tough questions to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, including whether he or Susan Shabangu was lying to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

But Ramaphosa did not get an opportunity to answer because Malema chose to go on a personal rant laden with insults, leading to his removal from the National Assembly. Again.

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