Parly corona-style is perfect


It’s a splendid Durban autumn afternoon, warm enough still for a T-shirt and shorts, all soft light and gentle sun, perfect beach weather.

It’s far too glorious a day to be spent to be locked indoors, hunched over a laptop, but here I am, locked indoors, hunched over a laptop.

I’ve thus far resisted the urge to make use of the daily 6am to 9am exercise window and head down to the beachfront promenade, which opened up on May 1 after being sanitised by the eThekwini municipality.

It’s not just my lazy nature. As much as I’d love a lungful of sea air, and a bit of a wander along the promenade, I’ve stayed at home. There’s a deadly virus doing the rounds, after all, and given that there’s no scientific proof that it takes a three-hour break every morning, just to allow South Africans to walk the dog, or go for a wander along the promenade, I’m staying in the pozi.

There’s also been a whole 1652 thing going on down at the beach since the exercise ban was lifted, with lots of online whining and muttering about protests over the surfing ban and the like, so I have more reason to stay away. The beachfront is like Facebook, but with waves and sand, at the moment. Too many nicotine deprived cats who went to the army to defend apartheid mouthing off about “fascism” and “states of emergency”; too much wounded privilege for my tastes; too much enraged white fragility for me to go anywhere near there for a good while.

The ban on swimming, fishing and surfing is a pain in the ass, an inconvenience, just like the ban on smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and getting a pedicure, but that’s all it is. Nothing more. There are plenty of injustices worthy of taking to the streets, of getting locked up, beaten or fined over. These are not among them.

The head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, is in town to assess the province’s Covid-19 quarantine sites and its state of readiness for when the pandemic starts to peak. The daily increase in the number of cases is now averaging about 450. The pressure is building on the commander in chief to lift more of the lockdown restrictions, so while the peak in infections has been delayed, it remains inevitable.

I’ve stayed away from the president’s visit. I’m not boycotting the boss in solidarity with the offended. I’m in Parliament for the afternoon — virtually at least — for a presentation by the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) leadership to the joint land reform committee, so the big man will have to get on with things without me.

The ITB had missed the cut-off date to submit its budget to the land reform department and hasn’t been given its funding, so I’m keen to hear what the chairperson, former judge Jerome Ngwenya, and its acting chief executive, Sandile Gabela, have to say.

The board has also placed its entire top management — including chief executive officer Lucas Mkhwanazi and chief finance officer Amin Mia — on special leave. I’ve battled to get any comment from Ngwenya on anything for some time now, so I’m even more interested in joining the meeting, just to hear his voice.

There’s also something absolutely cool about being able to sit in a parliamentary committee meeting, barefoot and dressed for the beach, in the middle of my lounge, munching fruit pastilles and Fritos, while listening to the honourable members do their thing. My couch is also way more comfortable than the seating arrangement in the parliamentary committee rooms, from what I can recall.

It’s also way easier to leave the meeting during the boring parts without anybody noticing, which is less embarrassing for all concerned.

Perhaps Parliament should operate like this permanently, hold the committees, the plenary sessions, the joint sittings, online from here on in. No more State of the Nation address fashion-parade nonsense. It will certainly cut transport costs. No more flying all the MPs and staff to Cape Town every Monday and back again on Friday. Given the likelihood that there won’t be a national carrier when we eventually emerge from the lockdown, there may be no other option than to run a virtual legislature.

Think of all the security savings. No more need for the team of white shirts to throw the red overalls out when they overdo the point of order thing. Now all the speaker has to do is mute the offending member’s mike and they’re out of the House.

I doubt that I would have made the trip to Pietermaritzburg’s Royal Showgrounds anyhow, even if I wasn’t off to Parliament. Spending the day traipsing around a Covid-19 quarantine centre with the president and a whole army of government officials is like playing Russian roulette, if you ask me.

I’d rather do what Rama said. Stay in the pozi.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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