Last week I attended my first sitting of Parliament, having been duly sworn in as an MP the week before. At the swearing in, accompanied by my two daughters, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a portrait of my late mother hanging outside the speaker's office. She was there in spirit – no doubt it was a sign that she approved. The Speaker of the House was not quite as approving, as evidenced by her remark to my party's Chief Whip, that the Democratic Alliance had stolen the children of the African National Congress – an odd description given she is barely seven years my senior.
Spurious accusations of political human trafficking notwithstanding, I was there, being inducted as an MP at the ripe old age of 60, precisely because the ANC of my parents – now quasi-regally and in a wholly partisan manner, defended by Speaker Mbete – had left me. It left me, like it left millions of South Africans over a period of time, as it embarked on an orgy of self-serving patronage, kleptocracy and shoddy delivery. I bit my tongue, in deference to the Office of the Speaker, and saved my sentiments for a later day.
Later I walked the hallowed ground of parliament where Verwoerd was assassinated, where Mandela was sworn in, where Helen Suzman sat in splendid isolation and opposition to successive apartheid regimes over many years, and mused about my journey. A year ago, I took the decision to join the DA and to make myself available to contest the metro of Ekurhuleni where we increased the DA vote to 34 percent in an overwhelmingly ANC stronghold, and where I lost the mayoral election by a mere six votes. Over the past year, as leader of the DA caucus in the metro, I was privy to the accelerated looting of municipal coffers and continued substandard service delivery to the 3.5 million inhabitants of the city by successive ANC governments.
The records of my council debates and the list of charges I laid with the police bear testimony to evidence in support of these assertions. I have now moved on to the National Assembly and as I attended my first sitting, I was struck by the similarity of the issues I had encountered in the metro. The scale was of a different order and the stakes, higher, given the national spotlight. The Deputy President was being hauled over the coals as he attempted to spin his way out of his calls for 'concomitant action' in response to the Marikana strikers' grizzly murder of two mine security personnel.
It was a vain attempt that secured applause only from the party faithful who would have cheered their leader, even if all he did was to blow a bubble from chewing gum, in full sight of the assembled members. This was not unlike the support the Mayor of Ekurhuleni received for the most outrageous comments including threats to get rough with the opposition in particular and with white folk in general. Then there was the Border Management Authority Bill, which was not passed due to the absence of quorum, and which sought, inter alia, to create another state-run behemoth that would control the customs and excise purse at national points of entry.
There you have it – dangerous talk giving rise to potential and actual loss of life and attempts to siphon off monies from the state coffers – the same metro farce repeated at national level. I'll grant you this though, the surroundings are grander in parliament, even if the putatively grandiloquent standard of debate from certain quarters is in inverse proportion to the levels of grandeur of the surrounds. I look forward to next week with bated breath.