Guest Column

OPINION: Thursday night was a sign that we are a nation in trouble

2020-02-16 07:06
President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday. (Sumaya Hisham, AFP).

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday. (Sumaya Hisham, AFP).

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People given responsibility do not take their work seriously, and we have seen this attitude emerge and take root for some time now, writes Fidel Hadebe.

In presenting the Parliament Budget Vote in July last year, Speaker Thandi Modise spoke at length about the role of Parliament and the responsibilities of MPs to the electorate.

"During the induction session, I said we must never have a Parliament that is incoherent, that is the laughing stock of its own people, of Africa and the world," said the Speaker.

"We are public representatives. Let's respect the House, let's respect one another, we can have a robust debate as we want - use our freedom of speech but let's do so responsibly", she continued.

Well, these wise words clearly fell on deaf ears judging by what happened on Thursday night during the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The SONA on Thursday took place against the background of deeply worrying socio-economic events in our country.

Our economy is lying unconscious on the ground needing urgent resuscitation.

Just as the president was putting the final touches to his most anticipated speech, one of South Africa's iconic mining giants Anglo-Gold Ashanti was busy packing up, leaving our shores to go and conduct business elsewhere.

Our municipalities (which are supposed to be the nucleus of growth) are in a bad state, to put it mildly.

They are struggling to provide basics such as running water to facilitate industrial activity and drive growth.

Our growth is projected at less than one percentage point.

Many sectors of our economy are shedding jobs, leaving households with little or no hope.

These are the kind of issues that keep most of us awake every night.

One would expect that the 399 MPs (plus the president) who occupy the chambers of Parliament should be preoccupied with these problems.

But no ... the nation was subjected to a very bad movie which saw members doing everything to undermine the institution of Parliament and us the people whose lives are intertwined with Parliament. 

The nation was held to ransom for over an hour by people sent there to advance that which is good for this republic. 

But what should we read from what happened in Parliament on Thursday night? 

People given responsibility do not take their work seriously, and we have seen this attitude emerge and take root for some time now.

The collapse of many of our institutions can be directly linked to this "I DON'T CARE" attitude.

The collapse of many of our municipalities and other key institutions can be linked directly to this simple yet dangerous attitude.

Serving as an MP is serious business - it is not some pastime that one does to escape from doing "hard" work which most ordinary South Africans have to do on a daily basis. 

It requires dedication, patriotism and selflessness and commitment to be of service to the people of this great land.

Secondly, running our Parliament is a seriously expensive exercise and we have a right as citizens to expect more from our MPs whether or not we voted for them.

The moment they take up their seats in Parliament their behaviour becomes my business.

As the Speaker herself said in her speech last year: "We thank all South African voters wherever they are for putting us all in this chamber to represent their views, needs and aspirations. We represent their hope, their diversity in spaces, race, class and gender."

What we witnessed on Thursday is a sign that we are in trouble but we still have a chance to redeem ourselves and give true meaning to the notion of patriotism.   

 - Fidel Hadebe is a former government communicator. He writes in his personal capacity.


Read more on:    thandi modise  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  parliament  |  sona  |  politics  |  leadership
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