EFFing up South Africa's Parliament

This week on Generations… Mmusi Maimane finds his inner Julius Malema and takes on shrewd Baleka Mbete as she continues to show her true allegiance to the majority party. The DA MPs, angered by Baleka's continuous betrayal, chant "Mbete must go," breaking all parliamentary decorum. Sparks fly when the ANC laughs at the EFF MPs, and once again the EFF has the last say in Parliament. It's your show, it's our show, it's Generations

Sounds promising for the next episode of South Africa's favourite soapie, doesn't it? But this is NOT the return of the South African version of Days of our Lives. Sadly, this IS the latest episode in the constitutional crisis currently underway in Parliament, which on Thursday descended into mayhem.

Generations may be gone, but soapie fans can sit tight and flip to the parliamentary channel for their daily dose of drama. That is unless the majority party slips further into police state-like activities and cuts the video stream to hide the "anarchy in parliament". After the stream was cut, Parliament underwent a Twitter revolution, with every politician present frantically tweeting to get the chaos out to the public domain. The ANC came one step closer to fascist action when riot police were accused of assaulting opposition MPs in the late hours of the night.

Behind the circus action, chanting and at some points the droning hum of one MP who clearly was at a loss for words, is a clear message to the ANC that it can no longer ignore. At the very least, it can no longer say, "I am not recognising you!", as Baleka Mbete so graciously said to all the opposition MPs in Parliament yesterday, if it wants to keep its throne.

Mbete made emotional claims at the Parliamentary briefing the day after the clash, stating that there was a trend of EFF MPs disobeying the rules of Parliament. Perhaps Mbete was confused by the chants coming from the opposition side of the house. However, the chants did not start with the EFF this time, but rather by DA MPs taking a stand against Mbete. DA MPs were 'EFFing' up her ruling. Only five minutes into Parliamentary proceedings and Mbete was once again being shouted down. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"Recognise one of us!" shouted EFF MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala.

"I actually don't want to recognise any of you," said Mbete.

"Step down Mbete, you have lost control of the house," said DA member John Steenhuisen.

"You wish," said Mbete.

I don't think I need to go any further into what happened; there's already a plethora of gifs to explain proceedings. If anyone had any doubts as to where Mbete's allegiances lie and how that affects the way she does her job, I think all doubts are now lost. I asked the same question months ago when similar chaos erupted in Parliament. When will Mbete realise that when she screams, "I am not recognising you" to one of the opposition MPs, she is shouting the same to their supporters, as well ANC voters? There is no doubt that the only people NOT concerned with Jacob Zuma's corruption are ANC members who are working so hard to clean up the PR mess that is our president.

Let me break it down without the theatrics, which we seem to obsess over more than we hear the message. While Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli thinks he is making a valid point for Mbete's cause in saying, "when people disregard the rules it is an attack on our Parliament", his words should actually ring, "when Mbete disregards the opposition opinion it is an attack on our democracy".

Those who thought that the EFF's break in decorum in August would bring about change, can now eat their words. This is no longer a case of "Malema is at it again" because he was not in Parliament on Thursday. DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane stepped up to the plate, asking the same questions. He begged the majority party to stop its PR crusade to protect the man in the president's chair, and actually address corruption and conflicts of interest within the ANC. Oh, and maybe our education and employment crisis somewhere along the way.

Mbete was right on one respect. There is a growing trend of breaking Parliamentary rules, but it was not the EFF who started it. It was our president, Jacob Zuma. We can have a conversation about how a lack of decorum in an institutional mechanism built to enhance democracy is disrespectful and unconstitutional. But first think of this: Zuma broke decorum when he was charged with 283 counts of corruption, charged with rape and found to have unduly benefitted from security upgrades at his Nkandla house and firepool. He did not garner respect, nor did he have respect for his voters and our Constitution.

Three days ago, Parliament's Powers and Privileges Committee adopted its final report, bringing the pending suspension of 12 EFF MPs, including Malema, a step closer. Now what can the committee rule if the majority of opposition parliamentary leaders are guilty of the same charges? It sounds ridiculous that we could suspend the whole of the DA and the EFF. Then again, before yesterday it would have sounded ridiculous that riot police could be accused of assaulting MPs in Parliament for expressing their opinion on an explicit abuse of power and conflict of interest.

I can go one step further. A lack of respect for institutional mechanisms aimed at enhancing democracy is seen elsewhere. On the same day as Mbete's ill-advised outburst, Advocate Ishmael Semenya, who represents the police service in the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, said mineworkers should be charged with treason for wanting to attack officers on the ground. It sounds crazy that we could charge mineworkers who were shot dead in a massacre by police, with murder and treason. And yet, we are watching it unfold in a commission painted with ANC corruption.

For anyone not aware of what is going on in Parliament right now: it is broken. Our democracy is broken. Sorry South Africa, 20 years of democracy has come and gone.

Emily Corke is a third year journalism and politics students at Rhodes University. She is the news features editor for student newspaper The Oppidan Press, a reporter for Grocott's Mail in Grahamstown and an Eyewitness News correspondent.