It really should be no wonder by now to South Africans that once again the State of the Nation Address last week descended into chaos. It is a symptom of our times: Lack of Leadership.
It manifests across the Atlantic and right on our own shores. The world is crying out for good leadership. We, the governed, are really on our own as those we have elected continue on a path that suggests they don't know when to stop harming themselves, and us, and how to stop what they are doing. Most of whom we call leaders today must just get out of their own way. And if they can't, we as citizens must help them by getting them out of our way. After all, it is not about them, but us.
Let's get back to the events in Parliament last Thursday. The ejection of EFF MPs by Parliament's protection services and their retaliation using their red helmets was a performance worthy of a World Wide Wrestling broadcast. The EFF raised some valid points during its “Points of Order” interjections but its lack of decorum took away from the validity of its arguments. The EFF should learn not to let its theatrics compete with the quality of its arguments.
It is true that Parliament has to date not sanctioned or held the President accountable for his breach of oath of office as was found by the Constitutional Court last year. That in itself speaks of poor leadership and double standards by Parliament. Former Minister Dina Pule, for example, was once found guilty by Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and duly sanctioned. Surely, hers was in the same, if not less, category as the President's offense?
This inconsistency is a reflection on the Speaker of Parliament. Her approach to issues seems to suggest that she is more concerned about being politically correct than being seen to be fair and rational. I must give it to her that last Thursday she was extremely patient with the EFF but her decisions to kick out COPE's Willie Madisha and decline the DA's request for a moment of silence in respect of the 94 psychiatric patients who died in Gauteng lacked both magnanimity and rationality.
Maybe in sending out Madisha she was signalling to the EFF what was coming their way, but there had been several EFF MPs whose behaviour paled Madisha's to insignificance yet they were still in the House. On the moment of silence, she should have put aside the DA's political point-scoring and granted it. Having a moment of silence was about the 94 patients who lost their lives and not the opposition party. At some stage the DA was calling for the special sitting to continue but when the EFF was kicked out the official opposition party decided to leave the House. It was a farce.
What made it’s exist even more farcical was the behaviour of some ANC MPs who were seen gesticulating in not so honourable a manner. One ANC MP was heard shouting using the words "F…k” you man, we can't tolerate this, and this is rubbish. Mazihambe ezizinja [these dogs must go]." I was shocked by the use of such obscene language in Parliament. Madam Speaker uttered no word of reprimand. But that is what happens when leadership stops disrupting or confronting mediocrity.
When the President finished delivering the State of the Nation Address, my mind refused to pretend everything was normal. I had listened to his address but my mind was preoccupied not with what he said (and there are good things he said) but with the state of our Parliament and how to fix it.
I want to suggest that the best way forward for Parliament to improve its functioning and regain its public standing is to immediately stop doing anything that creates, emboldens, or builds on bad leadership habits. And that speaks not only to the institution but to party leaders in Parliament. The disdain Parliament shows to us as citizens nowadays, and for which we handsomely reward MPs with our taxes, has to come to a stop.
As South Africans we far too easily suffer fools in leadership and accept poor performance as normative. We cannot have a chaotic Parliament as the norm. You and I pay the Speaker and her counterpart in the National Council of Provinces more than R2,7 million each per annum, leaders of opposition parties more than R1,2 million and each MP at least more than R1 million. For this, we expect better performance than what we saw last Thursday. OUR LEADERSHIP CRISES IS DEEPING AND WE CANNOT AFFORD TO STANDBY AND WATCH OUR PARLIAMENT CONTINUE TO BE DISFUNCTIONAL.
We extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the families of the 94 Psychiatric patients who died at Life Esidimeni as well as the family and friends of South African rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen.
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND CO-CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL (NRLC)