It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
An interpreter for the deaf translates a comment made in the National Assembly during the State of the Nationa Address.
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Once again, the honourable members of our parliament took the annual State of the Nation Address to the streets, and dragged us right along with them.
It has taken a few years but we are somewhat used to the punches, the walk-outs, the insults, and, disconcerting as it is, President Jacob Zuma's smug chuckle – that “hee, he, heee” that follows the sound of women weeping as they are dragged, punched and stomped on in the people’s Parliament.
But on Thursday, during Zuma’s 10th SONA, members of Parliament were able to dig a little deeper and find new ways to express their disdain for each other, and in some ways, the people of our country.
Women and men who had just an hour before paraded with dignity on the red carpet in glitzy, glamorous and some exquisite traditional outfits, lost their cool spectacularly.
"Fuck you man, we can't tolerate this, this is rubbish. Mazihambe ezizinja [these dogs must go]," one ANC MP shouted across the room at DA MP John Steenhuisen at some point.
And this was merely one of many swear words, threats, descriptive new "nicknames" and general insults hurled in the esteemed National Assembly.
This, for some reason, was one of the most difficult SONA’s to watch as things spiralled out of control.
It was painful from the moment the EFF started calling Zuma an incorrigible criminal and a constitutional delinquent (this was one we hadn’t heard before), and Cope calling him “imenemene”, to the ANC MPs labelling the DA sell-outs.
The moment when MPs went from public representatives to the street version of themselves was similar to when the dance song “tjukutja” comes on in a darkened tavern, and people just lose composure.
Earrings were metaphorically removed, sleeves were rolled up and expensive wigs and weaves were temporarily put aside as MPs defended their principal.
Things got personal fast and it was like watching our votes being used as toilet paper, in public.
And Zuma laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
Most South Africans will not remember the highlights of his speech.
They will not remember that it was dedicated to the memory of stalwart OR Tambo, who would have turned 100 years old this year.
They will not remember his tribute to the 94 mentally ill people who had died in Gauteng.
They will not remember his “new chapter of radical socio-economic transformation”.
But they will remember the “fuck you”, the “zinja ndini [you dogs]”, the use of the 94 lives as a political tool, and the president’s exclamation of, “FINALLY!” after the violent outbreaks.
And tomorrow, these esteemed MPs will be back at work in their finery, passing legislation while South Africans break a little more inside.
- Thulani Gqirana is a parliamentary reporter for News24.
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