Stop the circus in the House

2014-07-27 15:00

The rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has brought with it a fresh breeze, colour and controversy to the political centre stage.

Although the party obtained just 6% of the vote, it has dominated the headlines – mostly about its fight to wear red overalls in Parliament and provincial legislatures. But its disrespect for authority and contempt for everyone has lost it friends.

While we would be disappointed if political debate was not robust, the collapse of engagement into mudslinging does not serve any purpose.

It is obvious the ANC is frustrated by the presence of its former youth league leader in political power.

It is equally obvious the EFF will challenge any statements and moves by the governing party. This creates a political impasse on discussion. Furthermore, personal attacks detract from the very real issues that need resolution through debate.

Nonetheless, Parliament and provincial legislatures are governed by a code of conduct and all parties should be bound by this code or face the consequences.

EFF MP Floyd Shivambu probably did not realise the irony in his statement this week when he said that few of the MPs deserved to be called honourable. It’s exactly what many South Africans think about the circus taking place in the National Assembly.

And he is not exempt. No, we are not calling for British royalty pomp and ceremony, but basic respect and decorum.

President Jacob Zuma, who is often at the receiving end of many of the robust statements in the House, tried to make an intervention this week by calling for tolerance and respect.

But he undermined his own call when he threw a barb at DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane and paused to laugh at his own dry joke. The near fisticuffs between the EFF and ANC this week was not the first – an EFF MP and Freedom Front Plus MP also nearly traded blows recently.

If they continue in this vein, Parliament will lose all respect from society. The call for more dignified behaviour also extends to the presiding officers who often wear their party political badges above all other considerations when making rulings.

Presiding officers, even in the provinces, must realise they are there to facilitate debate and the processing of far-reaching laws that will stay in statute books for decades. They must deliver their work with honour, integrity and impartiality.

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