Red berets give DA the blues

It would be cute if Parliament was indeed a forum for the contestation of ideas. (David Harrison)

It would be cute if Parliament was indeed a forum for the contestation of ideas. (David Harrison)

FIFTH COLUMN

This is an official motion of no confidence in motions of no confidence.

Which political party is the official opposition in the Parliament? Wrong answer. Zero points for you.

The business of opposing the ANC, of stopping the Zuma train in its tracks, of capturing the public’s imagination is not what the Democratic Alliance has been doing.

Sure, the documents say that they are the official opposition. And, the Lord knows, they have never wasted an opportunity to whinge about the ruling party and its president (though if you follow the Economist on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that the Blue House is no longer the best at that either) with billboards and court cases. Were it only that easy.

The public remains unconvinced. The truth is that the DA is not terribly good at opposing in a way that turns heads and galvanises action at the ballot box. The opposition vacuum has been filled by a swarm of red berets and overalls that swept into Parliament and stunned both the Blue House and the ANC.

Say what you will about the Economic Freedom Fighters and its commander-in-chief Julius Malema but they have caught the public imagination. The DA wishes it could come up with a slogan as catchy and effective as “pay back the money”.

They wish they could pull the same viewers to the parliamentary channel as the red berets do. And we wish that they could be as innovative in their opposition.

President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene, the finance minister, last month was catastrophic by any measure. He confirmed to us all that he has no concern for the health of the republic whatsoever, and cannot be called a serious custodian of it. He’s a terrible, terrible president.

But for complicated reasons that largely have to do with the nature of our democratic process, the peculiar culture of the ANC, and its enduring public popularity, we can’t remove him until his party decides to.

The DA has prepared yet another motion of no confidence in Zuma. How many have there been? Three? Four? The gesture has become impotent and forgettable – in fact, the official opposition has indirectly set up the EFF for another opportunity to demonstrate what real opposition to Zuma ought to look like.

It would be cute if Parliament was indeed a forum for the contestation of ideas. Zuma’s presidency has emphatically proven that it is not. It exists purely to rubber-stamp the often delusional decisions made at Luthuli House and the Union Buildings. Everything else that happens there is a sideshow. A pantomime. A big joke. Good on the EFF for refusing to play along with the charade.

  Sipho Hlongwane is a Cape Town-based writer

 
Sipho Hlongwane

Sipho Hlongwane

Sipho Hlongwane is the Mail & Guardian's special projects editor. A published author, columnist and reporter by training (School of Hard Knocks), he has covered some of South Africa's most vivid protest marches, wildcat strikes and press conferences. His most challenging assignments were for women's glossy magazines. He obsesses over football and popular music for fun. Read more from Sipho Hlongwane

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