Many a true word is spoken in jest
This time around Bagraim’s audience was not in a theatre but in the National Assembly, where his antics “brought the house down”.
Bagraim gave two major addresses to the House over the last two weeks – the first on the non-delivery of payments for workmen’s compensation and Unemployment Insurance Fund cases.
“We have wonderful workmen’s compensation, with over R40 billion in funds available, but they can’t get it together to pay out,” said Bagraim, who recently visited five labour department offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
During his onsite visits, Bagraim was met with a litany of complaints: “The common refrain is that they have to wait for hours – then the staff eventually go off for lunch or tea; or they have lost the files, or would-be beneficiaries are told to come back as the department cannot locate the payments.
“I called my first speech ‘Let’s go down to the woods’, and compared parliamentarians to characters from Grimm’s Fairytales and other stories.
“The Big Bad Wolf was President Jacob Zuma, Little Red Riding Hood was Julius Malema and Lumka Yengeni, chairman of the Portfolio Committee (on labour), I likened to Cruella de Vil.
“It’s like a fairytale. We have very good legislation but it is worth nothing if not implemented. We need a proper inspectorate to enforce laws. It is like not wearing a seat belt with no traffic cops around to enforce the law.”
By pre-arranged signal to his party, every time Bagraim raised his left hand, they chanted the refrain, “the DA delivers”.
“Then they caught on and Deputy Speaker Cedric Frolick asked: ‘Mr Bagraim, have you always wanted to be a choirmaster’?”
Chaos erupted with Bagraim’s second speech antics. He brought a toy parrot with bright red colours into the House and told the EFF they merely chanted slogans parrot-fashion and did not know what they were saying.
Bagraim had consulted with his deputy chairman, Mike Waters, before donning a jester’s hat for the second part of his speech. He was advised he could wear it but should take it off before he was ordered to do so by the Speaker, as hats, except religious headgear, are forbidden in Parliament.
“Cedric Frolick was laughing so much, he forgot to admonish me. One third of the ANC joined the rest of the House in mirth; they were virtually sitting on the floor from laughter.”
The jester’s hat was borrowed from Bagraim’s wife Patsy, who had worn it to a Purim party. But Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant was not amused. “It is not even in ANC colours,” she said, referring to him as the Honourable Member Bahrain (sic).
“I donned the hat to illustrate that we have become an international joke and the laughing stock of the world,” Bagraim explained.
“There was such a cacophony in the House, it rivalled a discotheque.”
And, although akin to comedian Trevor Noah, Bagraim made his point through laughter, many suffering the consequences of non-delivery could well apply the Yiddish term “bitterer gelechte”,