Let’s move Parly to the virtual world

Parliament. (David Harrison, M&G)

Parliament. (David Harrison, M&G)


I fully understand the reluctance to give up the Parliament building in Cape Town. It’ll be so hard to get the deposit back, for one thing.

Even if the Economic Freedom Fighters scrape the bubblegum from under their desks, the Democratic Alliance sweeps all their racists under a rug, speaker Baleka Mbete replaces her battered mic and the ANC fixes the balustrades broken by their white-shirted heavies, and they all pull together and paint the whole place – even then I think the City of Cape Town and probably the rest of us will say: “This is not the Parliament Nelson Mandela left you in 1999 – no deposit back for you!”

And then we’re back to square one.

Plus, costs aside, moving house is a traumatic event on a par with losing a family member or getting divorced.

I’m in the middle of a move right now. It could not be more disruptive. The taps in my new place don’t open the same way the old ones did and the shower – well, the shower is just not the same.

As a guy somewhat in touch with the millennial generation, I feel compelled to suggest we move Parliament to virtual reality.

Now, I’m not saying it will solve all of Parliament’s troubles: the best virtual-reality headset, the Oculus Rift, costs $1 500 (a gazillion rand) and requires users to be fully awake to work properly. There is no promise of artificial intelligence and the device also needs an unscrambled internet signal. It’s also limited as far as physically removing unruly, red-suited members is concerned.

Luckily, Toggle recently launched a much cheaper people-centric headset called Toggle Cardboard. It’s made of lightweight, street-quality cardboard – ideal for ministers on the move or anyone eager to see what the world looks like through the eyes of a homeless person.

With Toggle Cardboard, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula can still weigh in on government spending from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and Public Service Minister Lindiwe Zulu can interrupt him from the shores of Lake Como.

But moving Parliament to the virtual world won’t solve any of the real problems we’re dealing with today. And neither, dare I say it, will a move to Snorstad. My hunch is the kilometres saved on commuting between the two capitals will only be added to the frequent flyers miles ministers stack up with their globe trotting.

In my experience, moving rarely solves anything and, whether Parliament is in Cape Town or Pretoria, we will still be stuck with an ineffectual, delusional president governing in a dreamworld of his own.

The best we can do is dream of a world in which we have a president in touch with reality, doing what real presidents do – which is leading their countries to a better tomorrow.

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit


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