Tjatjarag: Please rescue us from Protocol Hell

2013-08-25 14:00

‘We welcome His Excellency, the honourable President of the Republic of South Africa. And Her Excellency, Madam First Lady of the Republic of South Africa.

“We welcome His Excellency, the Honourable Minister of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa, as well as the Honourable Director-General of the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

“We welcome the Honourable Excellency, the Premier of the Gauteng Province. And the Honourable Member of the Executive Committee for Economic Development and What What of the Gauteng Province. And the Honourable Director of the Department of Economic Development and What What of the Province of Gauteng. And the Honourable Director-General of the Department of Economic Development and What What of the Province of Gauteng.

“We welcome the Honourable Excellency, the Executive Mayor (acting) of the Metropolis of Tshwane (previously known as Pretoria). And we recognise the Honourable (acting) Member of the Mayoral Committee of the Metropolis of Tshwane (previously known as Pretoria).

“And we recognise the Head of the Department of Whatever in the Honourable Metropolis of Tshwane (formerly known as Pretoria). Then, welcome to the Members of the Bodily Integrity Protections Units (formerly known as bodyguards) of the various Units of Protection of Very Very Important Persons of the South African Police Service (known as “blue-light brigades”).

“Welcome, too, to their various flunkies, hangers-on, unnecessary-appendages-to-make-them-feel-important who join us here today. We hope you have a great time (if you have not fallen off your chair from boredom by now).”

We have gone protocol crazy in the Republic of Mzansi. Mad. I liked going to public functions but now avoid them because I often fall off my chair by the time the list of observed protocol has been read. Some brave political leader is going to say “Enough. Let’s go back to how we were.”

Back then, meetings of the broad liberation movement were hubbubs of equality and solidarity. The atmospheres were of mutual respect and collegiate debate.

They started with an “Amandla” (Power), with a response of “Ngawethu” (To the people). Everyone was a “comrade” in the genuine sense. This meant friend, compatriot, fellow soldier – a word at once encompassing solidarity, unity and, most important of all, equality.

Is it politically naive of me to wish we could go back to those days where we lived true to the dictum of being equal? Who introduced all this ridiculous colonial protocol into the meetings of what is still supposed to be a people’s government?

The revolutionary government swallowed the Ministerial Handbook and all other regulated greed, pomp and colonial-era title and protocol, and failed to transform it.

Because shows of power are attractive. I mean, just feel how the words ‘excellency’ and ‘honourable’ roll off the tongue to create division, of a class apart from the people.

Why do we separate people of supposed equality into ranges from VIP, to VVIP and VVVIP? Who made these stupid rules and why do we follow them? They make a mockery of campaigns for social cohesion and equality.

Then there is the elevation of role into status by way of ridiculous title-itus (the love of title; an epidemic of title love).

A member of the mayoral executive committee is just a member of the mayor’s executive team. It’s not a thing of status, an indication of this is a Big Man or Big Woman (I mean, they often are, but it’s usually by girth, not worth).

A member of the provincial executive is not a ministerial role, but is interpreted as such in our fiefdoms (formerly known as provinces), where MECs behave like Cabinet members with VIP Protection Units and blue lights galore.

In my study of our descent into Protocol Hell, I’ve come to know this: The length of the convoy is usually in inverse proportion to the depth of intellect. The extent of the infection of title-itus is similarly inverse to the extent of competence.

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