Jan Gerber

EFF's Trumpism desecrates Parliament

2018-11-09 06:00
Members of the EFF and DA fight in the National Assembly of Parliament.

Members of the EFF and DA fight in the National Assembly of Parliament.

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What does the presence of mini-Trumps in red overalls mean for Parliament? It tarnishes the image of the institution when some of its members are running amok, writes Jan Gerber.

Football fans will be familiar with those players who run around the pitch on a mission to kick their opponents' ankles off, elbowing them in the face, tugging at their shirts, but at the slightest touch – sometimes there isn't even a touch – will drop to the ground, roll around writhing in "pain" and demand action from the referee, their faces contorted in indignation. That blunt instrument who used to strike for Chelsea, Diego Costa, comes to mind.

These thugs are a blight on the beautiful game.

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The EFF play the parliamentary game with a similar attitude. It has always been part of the EFF playbook; they call themselves fighters after all, but of late it has gotten worse.

They'll launch ad hominem attacks on everyone, complain bitterly when called to order, drown out speakers who don't share their views, and they always have to get the last word in.

When they get a bit of their own medicine, seldom delivered with the same venom they administer, they turn nasty. On Tuesday, things got really nasty.

So what is going on here?

People who have been following the tragicomedy of the Fifth Parliament might say, well, the EFF causing a disturbance is nothing new.

That is true, of course, but there is a distinct difference to their previous antics.

Previously, the EFF caused a ruckus when former president Jacob Zuma tried do dodge accountability - aided and abetted by the ANC caucus and more often than not shielded by Speaker Baleka Mbete - and abusing parliamentary precedents and processes.

Demagoguery

Tuesday's events are different. The pawpaw hit the fan when DA chief whip John Steenhuisen raised a point of order about President Cyril Ramaphosa's remarks questioning his auditory and comprehension abilities. Despite it having nothing to do with the EFF, they drowned out Steenhuisen, with EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi jumping up and addressing the presiding officer while Steenhuisen was speaking, followed by his "commander-in-chief" Julius Malema.

Steenhuisen then called on the "VBS looters" to allow him to finish speaking, resulting in Malema jumping up, calling him "a racist white man who was accused of rape".

Tempers flared between the two parties. When things calmed down, sort of, Agang MP Andries Tlouamma said it could not be allowed that whites were prevented from speaking, drawing the wrath of the EFF onto him. While trying to speak, he too was drowned out by the EFF, lost his patience and yelled "Fokof!" at the EFF MPs. EFF MP Nazier Paulsen then jumped over parliamentary benches to get to Tlouamma.

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The difference here is that they are the subject of the allegations, in relation to their hands allegedly being in the VBS-cookie jar.

Basically, they are trying to suppress criticism and the sort of barbs they loved dishing out. But this is more than just a thug trying to intimidate its accusers.

It is part of a larger trend in the EFF's behaviour that puts them in the realm of the demagoguery becoming more prevalent in the world. People have taken to calling it Trumpism.

Of late, the EFF has questioned the credibility of the "white-owned media" (FAKE NEWS!), claimed there is a conspiracy by officials in the Treasury against them (WITCH HUNT!) and indulged in ethnic stereotyping against Indians (BAD HOMBRES!).

These types don't want a better society, they want power

They're following the populist's guide to demagoguery: projecting an image of victimhood and brute power while, at the same time, using minorities as scapegoats and trying to intimidate anyone who doesn't indulge their delusions of grandeur.            

History has shown that people who follow these tactics don’t really care for the people they purport to represent, and ideology is merely a tool to mobilise their base. These types don't want a better society, they want power.

So what does the presence of mini-Trumps in red overalls mean for Parliament? On a procedural level, not much. It will only serve to waste a lot of time. Previously, Parliament has adopted rule changes to minimise disruptions, and the legislature has a way of grinding on.

On another level, however, it tarnishes the image of Parliament when some of its members are running amok. It sets a bad example that you can simply shout down those who don't agree with you. And it normalises crude political thuggery in what is supposed to be a democracy.

- Jan Gerber is one of News24's parliamentary reporters. Back in the day, he did an MPhil in Political Management, with land reform as the topic of his thesis.

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:    agang sa  |  eff  |  donald trump  |  julius malema  |  mbuyiseni ndlozi  |  parliament  |  populism
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