Alarm bells ring for lack of decorum in Parliament
Rivonia trialist and staunch ANC member Denis Goldberg feels that “daily doses” of personal conflicts are “unhelpful”.
Although the country has “come a hell of a long way in 20 years”, he points out that there are weaknesses. “The politics of issues are forgotten and we are dealing with the politics of personalities. My own ANC, which is a party based on non-racism, is equally at fault.”
He came out against EFF leader Julius Malema and his wealth, saying this did not stand for the socialism Malema conveys. Goldberg said Malema was allegedly worth R53 million.
“He demands President Zuma pays back the money (on Nkandla), while he owes millions in unpaid taxes. But I suppose he has come to an arrangement with SARS and is in good standing.”
Goldberg objected to slights against former DA leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, including inferences of her being a “maidservant”.
Regarding the President, Goldberg said Zuma found himself surrounded “by a group of cronies” who were doing well out of the situation. He had been damaged by some of their actions.
“It would be extremely heroic for him (Zuma) to stand down.”
However, Goldberg stresses he is very happy to be living in a democracy “where I can dare to say such things about leading members of my party”.
Victor Gordon, past chairman of the Pretoria Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, says: “I clearly recall my pride and excitement with the adoption of our ground-breaking Constitution which ensured that even the most humble would enjoy freedoms and liberties to a degree unique in the developed world.
“Parliament stood as the noble beacon from which the light of erudition, fairness and sensibility would forever glow, ensuring that no-one could regard him/herself above the laws of the land.”
He said during the short presidential reign of Nelson Mandela, the precepts that supported this new liberalism were clearly understood by the leaders of the ANC; “those who had languished on Robben Island or exiled in faraway places. The country belonged to the people, the ANC was its servant. Of course, with the passage of time and the erosion of moral standards, this has all changed for the worse.
“Amid it all are the parties in opposition, espousing attitudes (but few policies) on opposite ends of the scale. One of the few measures we have to judge their grasp of democracy and their ability to exist by it, is their behaviour in Parliament.
“In one case the antics adopted are so bizarre and embarrassing to be both frightening and sufficiently unsettling to make one think whether a future for our community does, in fact, exist. The other political alternative has far more in common with what we generally regard as ‘civilised’ standards but, sadly, the chances of them ever assuming power are remote.”
Gordon says the reasons for this confusion and plunge in standards are known to all, but the question is: “Whereto from here. No doubt, some faith in Divine leadership would do no harm in re-establishing our dented equilibrium.”
Joy Coplan, ANC councillor and PR for Ward 90 in Johannesburg is shocked at the behaviour of certain members of opposition parties, like the Chief Whip of the DA (John Steenhuisen) telling the deputy chairman of the National Council of Provinces Raseriti Tau “he is talking rubbish”. [There was a subsequent apology from Steenhuisen.]
Coplan recalls walking home from school in Cape Town and often going into the Houses of Parliament when there was decorum, to listen to debates.
“Now there is total lack of respect for the institution of Parliament. “The SONA debate was chaotic and it undermined the status of Parliament. There should be intense debate, but they should show respect.”
The DA, she felt, was at fault, “but I am not including (DA leader) Mmusi Maimane”.
Advocate Jonathan Silke, honorary life president of the SA Zionist Federation, said the opening of Parliament and SONA should be respected by all parties. “Decorum is essential.
“The opposition parties have a chance to air opposing views and to challenge government in the various debates. It is their duty to challenge the government on policies.”
He complimented the DA, ACDP and IFP on “their balanced and mature approach”.
Silke was adamant that the president and other holders of public office should never be subjected to “personal or vindictive” attacks as the real issue should always be the policies of government.
Well known community leader Wayne Sussman questioned: “Who would have thought that the first dose of entertainment at the State of the Nation Address would be provided by the down-but-not-yet-out Congress of the People (Cope), and not the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)?
“I have a confession to make. In my teens, I would watch World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the actions of the EFF and Cope reminded me of WWE- scripted, rehearsed and predictable, but still entertaining.
“We knew the stakes would be raised in an election year, and that voters would be glued to their communication medium.”
Sussman said he found Julius Malema’s speech in response to SONA humorous, “but [I] believe he and the EFF gave up much ground to the ANC and the DA by not participating in the bulk of the responses to the SONA. They were not able to go toe-to-toe with the ANC, like the DA did.”
Sussman quips that he is sure both the DA and the EFF would love some Vermont water in their elixir.
“Bernie Sanders, at 74, has about 40 years on the clock more than Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema, yet he is able to energise young and first-time voters.”
Zev Krengel, immediate past national president of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, says he is concerned at the behaviours of MPs in Parliament.
“They are undermining the structure of the legislature and the whole of Parliament.”
Krengel said failing to respect the institution of government could be very dangerous. “Go for the person, not the institution and not against the Speaker of the House.”
There were remedies through the right channels in the event of dissension, he said.