Devlin Brown
3 minute read
24 Aug 2015
9:10 am

Parliament is a reality TV show

Devlin Brown

The Citizen ran an editorial referring to parliament as the Jerry Springer show. This description has gained traction because, frankly, it is very accurate.

Devlin Brown, digital editor. Picture: twitter

It is being bandied about in the debate about whether or not the media should broadcast what happens in the hallowed chambers. This misses the point entirely. The argument that screening live debate in Parliament cheapens the institution is nonsense.

It is not the viewer writing the script, it is the people we have entrusted our country to who act like guests on the Jerry Springer show.

What is it that makes the Jerry Springer show so popular? Well, it is chewing gum for the eyes. It is the most irritating concept imaginable and yet the idea of fools who live in trailers looking for reasons to fight on television is somehow appealing to a wide audience.

Springer himself comes from a political background, but he can be forgiven for cashing in with tongue-in-cheek entertainment.

Can we forgive the ANC, DA and EFF for doing the same? Contested sessions are what democracy are made of and that should be encouraged. However, the level that parliament has stooped to is disturbing. Watching people gather around public TVs in anticipation of “pay back the money” and “I do not recognise you” is a stark sign of what Parliament has become.

Why hide this from the public? We are the ones who have voted and put together the proportional representation in the chambers and we deserve to see just how paralysed this country really is.

There is no way the MPs are doing it to entertain the public, so they must be doing it to entertain themselves. The novelty has worn off and MPs need to decide if they are going to do what we voted for or if they are going to continue celebrating anarchy. It is easy to blame the EFF as it is clear they thrive on disruption, but the ANC and DA are just as culpable.

The ANC has lashed out at critics of Nkandla for blaming the president, arguing that not all issues can be reduced to one man. This is too convenient. The president is the leader of the country, and how he responds to criticism and questions is the cause of almost every fight in parliament.

One of the surest ways of winning an argument is by pre-empting the strategy of your opponent and killing their point before they even make it. It is unbelievable how Cabinet and even the ANC has played into the hands of the opposition with every contentious issue in the country.

The DA does not have a complicated game plan, and with the right moves the ANC could have taken the wind out of their sails time and time again. However, this may well point to the immaturity of our politics that always ends up playing itself out as a bar fight in Parliament.

Citizens of South Africa deserve to watch our lawmakers on live television because then we can see what has happened to our vote. In the meantime, sit back, relax and wait for the debate on the DA’s motion to have Zuma impeached. It is sure to be a blockbuster episode of reality television gone wrong.