Howard Feldman

OPINION: Don't tell me I can't comment on the EFF, I will not stay in my lane

2020-02-19 14:01
The EFF in Parliament where they again disrupted the SONA.

The EFF in Parliament where they again disrupted the SONA. (Bertram Malgas, News24)

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Imagine what would have happened in South Africa, if, prior to 1994, those who were told to do so, listened. It is unimaginable, writes Howard Feldman  

Before 8am today, I was told to stay in my lane!

I was told to not comment on things that don’t concern me and that I shouldn't ask "nonsense" questions.

To be fair, I had only asked one such question and that was: "Given the fact that the EFF had effectively chosen not to attend SONA, should they be allowed to attend and participate in the debate?" 

To be clear, I am aware that the rules of Parliament allows them to do so, but my question was around behaviour and consequences.  

I blame Helen Zille for this.

Not in the sense that she had anything to do with it, but that she famously imported the expression to South Africa in 2019.

Before Helen, the term "stay in your lane" had become popular in 2018.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it rose to prominence when the National Rifle Association (NRA) criticised emergency room doctors for their comments on America's crisis in gun violence, telling them to stay in their lane.

They did this in a tweet that implied that their remarks on gun control did not fall under the doctors' umbrella of expertise.  

The doctors responded by showing examples of people hurt by gun violence.

They used the hashtag #ThisIsOurLane - what a waste of time and of energy. 

To tell someone to "stay in their lane" is to send a message that they are not valued.

It demotivates, it crushes creativity and it stifles success.  

Very little is achieved by those who "stay in their lanes".

The path of man has been altered and improved by those who refused to stay in their lanes.

From Galileo to Elon Musk, from Rosa Parks to Hedy Lamarr, it is the mavericks who, through their courage, foresight and optimism refused to swim where they were told to.  

Imagine what would have happened in South Africa, if, prior to 1994, those who were told to do so, listened.

It is unimaginable.  

The answer to the question around the EFF’s attendance at the SONA feedback is mostly irrelevant in that the rules allow them to be there.

What was important to me was the discussion around accountability and responsibility.

Do supporters of the EFF agree with the behaviour on the night of the SONA or did the presence of FW De Klerk in the gallery, following his bizarre comments that apartheid was not a crime against humanity a few days prior justify the behaviour?

Was it relevant that De Klerk had attended numerous events and that there was hardly any reaction for the four days since his statement? And that this behaviour had become part and parcel of the EFF standard operating procedure?  

But if only EFF supporters are allowed to comment, because the rest of us are considered to be swimming in "other lanes" then all debates are shut down and we become more stupid as a nation.

There is of course no end to this dangerous logic and before we know it, our lanes will be so narrow that we will hardly be able to swim at all.  

I will not "stick to my lane" and urge others to resist doing so.

Black or White, male or female, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or atheist, old or young, ANC or EFF or DA, it very simply doesn’t matter.

No one gets to tell us to stay in our lane when we all are swimming in the same pool.  

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

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:    eff  |  malema  |  elon musk  |  julius  |  helen zille  |  parliament  |  sona  |  leadership  |  politics
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