I was appalled by the manner in which COPE’s Mosiuoa Lekota was treated in Parliament this week. There are two points I want to make in this regard.
The first: Lekota’s contribution to the debate in Parliament was far from irrational. It deserved to be listened to and reflected on. I understood the essence of his message to be a fundamental critique of what had come across from Julius Malema as an unreasonable proposition: anyone against the principle of expropriation without compensation “is an enemy of the people”. This proposition does not make sense.
In reality, “the people” are not an undifferentiated mass making a single, simple demand. Within “the people” is a universe of very diverse histories and interests. This is a fundamental fact of the composition of the South African population. It is a useful starting point for any political, economic, social, and cultural conversation designed to lead to constitutional and policy outcomes.
Lekota’s point was that any serious conversation on the land issue has to engage with and navigate through the terrain of multiple, diverse interests and histories in the South African population. You arrive at rigorous generalisation from having learnt more from the unavoidable reality of specific experiences.
The second point concerns the howling down of Lekota initiated by the EFF. This after Malema had sensibly urged what would be an important attribute of the leadership of President Ramaphosa: to listen to even those he did not agree with.
But when it came to listening to Lekota, the EFF would not listen, but howl. Their leader, Malema, who had just spoken about the importance of listening, did nothing to call to order the members of his own party. Either they defied their leader, or his statement earlier had been an act of hypocrisy.
It will be sad that in the post-Zuma phase the EFF and other political parties in Parliament did not reflect on the behavioural requirements of a new phase in the business of Parliament. DM
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