Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 14 February 2020

#SONA2020: Our democracy is alive and well

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise called the EFF’s bluff on Thursday night to enable Parliament to settle down and listen seriously to the President outlining his vision for a better SA.

What a masterstroke by our National Assembly Speaker, Thandi Modise. She managed to do what former speaker Baleka Mbete failed to do – to reinforce the dignity of Parliament. She allowed EFF leader Julius Malema and Co to take more and more rope and, in the end, to hang themselves as they were implementing a strategy to delay and delay. 

The EFF strategy was to raise point of order and order and order, quote the rules governing the joint sitting and through this, manage to delay proceedings by more than an hour, as well as telling the President, in fact instructing him, to sit down. But Speaker Modise demonstrated to the entire nation how stupid, petty and disruptive the EFF can be. While the country is seriously concerned about load shedding, Eskom debt, job creation and so much more, the EFF chose to make a noise about Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Speaker Thandi Modise instructs EFF members to take their seats after rising on numerous points of order during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address. (Photo: Daily Maverick/Leila Dougan)

No one can argue against the fact that what FW de Klerk recently said publicly about apartheid not being a crime against humanity is unacceptable. However,  the SONA platform is the wrong place to raise the matter.

The EFF expected that the Speaker would call on the “white shirts” to come in and forcibly remove them from the house, but no such request came. Instead, she allowed them to repeat themselves and in that way ensured that ALL other parties could tolerate the disruption no longer. As one of them said, “we are gatvol”.

Then, after she allowed the EFF to voluntarily leave the house, she made her next move by allowing every opposition party to express frustration with the EFF. 

The biggest loser last night was Julius Malema’s EFF party. 

The President’s speech hit all the right notes: A long and necessary road map for Eskom and clearly stating that Independent Providers must now come into the sector and companies may now create their own energy needs. He used clever wording around the social partners in Nedlac also having a clear commitment to finding solutions to the energy crisis as well as the debt crisis of Eskom. He planted the seeds that using pension money would remain on the cards as long as there was a responsible approach to the deal and that it was one that did not deliberately and irresponsibly threaten pensioners’ money.

The plight of the youth and the emphasis on skills development through the establishment of various institutions of learning are welcomed. The emphasis here is on jobs. He added meat to his smart city initiative saying that they were identifying a location. 

It was encouraging that he put women front and centre, not only here at home but also stating that this would be his central focus continentally through SA’s AU chairperson position. 

Everyone, prior to this SONA said they wanted a vision from the President, they wanted hope. I think he has done exactly that. Yes, as a country we are in a crisis, as he reminded us, but you can choose to be pessimistic or optimistic. For the President to exude optimism is not a crime or an indication of putting your head in the sand. 

It is as the President said in honouring Joseph Shabalala:

“We may face high mountains, Must cross rough seas,

We must take our place in history, And live with dignity,

As we climb to reach our destiny A new age has begun.”

Thank you for the vision and road map, Mr President. Our democracy is indeed alive and well. DM



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