On 06 November 2018, South Africans yet again witnessed chaos and even physical fighting in the National Assembly during the Question and Answer session of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Parliament is supposed to be a platform of debate and free opinion sharing; however, it has become a house characterised by petulant acts akin to a kindergarten. It seems that no National Assembly session can start and finish without some sort of heckling, insults thrown around and name-calling. Since 2014, with the entrance of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the famous ‘pay back the money’ chants, National Assembly sessions have enjoyed a fair amount viewership from the general public. The question now is: seeing our leaders behave in such a manner, what impact does it have on the general public, particularly tolerance towards each other’s views?
We have seen the tendencies displayed in the National Assembly mirrored in the provincial and municipal legislatures. In April 2018, Andile Lungisa was convicted of assault for hitting an opposition member with a glass jug during a heated argument in a Nelson Mandela Bay legislature seating. The intolerance playing out on a regular basis in our chambers has the potential to spill out into the public domain, particularly as we are entering campaign season in the build up to the general elections in 2019. During the municipal elections in 2016, we did witness some acts of intolerance and violence by political parties towards each other and with the upcoming general elections in 2019 ever so crucial, violence and intolerance are likely to intensify.
Political intolerance and rivalry has led to inter and intra-party political killings, especially in Provinces such as KwaZulu Natal and as detailed by witnesses at Moerane Commission and the Inter-Ministerial Committee set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 14 May 2018, following the murder of ANC convenor in the Moses Mabhida region, Musawenkosi Mchunu.
What will it take for politicians to realise their place in society and take cognisance of the fact that their followers look to them for guidance and the notion of do as I say and not as I act simply does not cut it.
Any level of intolerance displayed by politicians towards each other has greater ramifications for the public and it seems they are oblivious to that notion. As election campaign season kicks in, it seems we are more likely to witness more acts of intolerance by political parties towards each other, whether it be by disrupting gatherings, refusing entry to certain areas, acts of sabotage…etc. Do not be surprised if fists and furniture fly in the process, after all their leaders are also doing it in parliament, therefore it is okay for them to do it as well.