Faith Daniels

When Parliament rivals Generations

2016-04-06 12:06

Faith Daniels

"Pass the popcorn," she says. "I'm taking my seat in front of the TV. Don't bother me for the rest of the day." My friend who hates watching the news and lives on soapies has over time become an addict to the Parliament channel – even the repeat broadcasts. And I don't blame her. For the first time ever I've been tasked with finding a schedule of upcoming "events". I kid you not.

Gone are the days of long speeches, polite applause and acknowledgement. There's nothing procedural, old school or mundane about what is currently happening in the National Assembly. No boring speeches here. We've become accustomed to a new form of debating – screaming, shouting and insults have become the acceptable way of communicating, part of the discourse. And that type of behaviour seems to be building up quite a fan club.

It's a sight to behold when colleagues or friends realise that they won't be in front of a TV at the exact time of a particular afternoon set aside for parliamentary affairs. We start searching sites for live streaming options, following live tweets, worst case scenario we check for updates on Facebook, maybe a live blog. Such is our obsession. #FOMOisreal.   

In recent times it's become difficult to debate other issues plaguing this country; in fact I'd venture to say it's downright impossible. Because we are all stuck on the one person at the centre of it all – President Jacob Zuma. The main character.

But, not to be outdone, the supporting cast, the opposition parties, do a brilliant job of adding to the mockery. In front of our very eyes we are creating a new brand of reality TV where the gloves are really off and the lines blur between crude and acceptable, adult and child. It's all very serious yet not.

It makes for entertaining TV, for sure. A great, big spectacle. The insults hurled would bring a smile to the most seasoned writer of trash TV. You can't make these things up. For when the Speaker of the National Assembly is described as illegitimate and constitutionally illiterate, you know it's time to pay closer attention. Let's not forget the sittings that have gone before – the men in white shirts moving in, the walkouts, the EFF bringing Parliament to a standstill with their chants of "Pay back the money," and "Zupta must fall," referring to President Zuma and his friendship with the influential Gupta family.

This is South Africa 2016, raw, real and on display for the world to see. At the rate things are going, National Assembly sessions should perhaps start with a PG warning – Parental Guidance advised. After all, there might be childish behaviour on display at times, but it's not for children's ears.

Yes, we have sunk very low. Yes, the behaviour is unpleasant and what must the world think? But maybe this is exactly where we need to be if it means change is coming. Let us not put all the blame on our representatives in Parliament, we elected them.

If their conduct is a reflection of the frustrations and anger of ordinary South Africans, then maybe the screaming matches should continue. Because if we are really honest with ourselves, how far have we gotten with polite conversation and decency in our parliamentary precinct? The formula just didn't work. In fact it is during the normal course of things that we have sunk the lowest, without a word being said.

But enough now. In true soapie form, it's time for the hero to make an entry. That's your cue, Mr President.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    jacob zuma


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