Guest Column

I loved Julius - just for one day

2014-05-22 10:00

Susan Erasmus

In amidst the staid suits and ties and designer dresses of all the other MPs, there was a splash of the Economic Freedom Fighters bright red overalls and so-called housecoats and aprons. I am loving this.

I know Parliament is a formal place, and that there is something like a dress code, but what better way to try and portray that you represent the working poor of this country than to dress like them?

Whether this stands the test of time remains to be seen. While the EFF’s economic policies seem to be aimed at short-term redistribution of wealth, followed by an inevitable long-term distribution of poverty, their dress code is certainly economically sustainable.

I know it has a certain Mao-like uniform quality to it, and it doesn’t exactly encourage individuality, but it is certainly colourful, and certainly different.

Designer overalls

An overall is an overall is an overall. There are no designer overalls to be had at any price anywhere.
And clothes are important: they signify how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and they often determine how others see us.  Dress smartly, and you’ll be taken seriously. Or so they say.

But Mandela, although he donned suits and ties when absolutely necessary had his own definitive style, which was very different from the presidents who preceded him.

Think about it: the first things most MPs do when they get elected, is to dress for the occasion. It’s off to designer shops and boutiques, and they emerge with dented credit cards and fancy outfits. If you are claiming to represent the poor, what more alienating first step can you take on your political path than to appear in clothes none of them would ever be able to afford?

(I know, I know – Julius was seen years ago wearing a watch allegedly costing R250 000. I am not saying he’s perfect, I am just saying that even a stopped clock must be right twice a day. And I think he is right on this one.)

Glamour and bling

The minute someone becomes part of government, they start earning a large salary, and it is difficult to remember what it was like to have a lot less. The glamour and the bling must be overwhelming and it seems to lead very quickly to a mindset bent purely on self-gain and enrichment.

What would impress me immeasurably, is if the MPs of the EFF took the money they saved by not buying fancy designer outfits, and publicly donated it to charity. Because let’s face it, they earn the same fat cat salaries the other MPs do. Put your money where your mouth is, Julius.

(By the way, I think a friend of mine may have solved an election mystery, namely why the EFF got four votes in Orania: is it possible that these four misguided souls thought they were voting for the FF (the Freedom Front)? Amazing what a difference one letter can make, isn’t it?)

OK, now the EFF has made a valid statement about representing the working poor and the poor in general and about the need for economic transformation; but there is a lot more to being a Parliamentarian than dressing up or down for the occasion.

Now the real work begins: the attendance of meetings, keeping up to date with the issues of the day, just being present in Parliament, the preparation of speeches, and keeping in contact with the electorate. These things are a little more difficult than donning a colourful overall. Let’s wait and see.

Don’t you just love an optimist?

-  Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer.


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