Will the ageing ANC just be fronting with its youthful new MPs?

African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize. Picture: Gallo Images

African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize. Picture: Gallo Images

The debate is out on whether the ANC will be able to match the EFF’s youthful impetuosity in parliament.

The sudden inclusion by the ANC and a few other parties of youth and student activists on their parliamentary lists has all the trappings of seeking political expediency.

These deployments to the National Assembly, etc., appear to merely make up the numbers, or show new faces among the old in the House.

There is no guarantee they will contribute to robust debates, or that their inputs will be any different to the gobbledygook we were bombarded with over the past 25 years.

On the contrary, the Economic Freedom Fighters MPs emerged as radical militants in labourers’ red overalls, hard hats and maids’ gear, but their presence helped to alter the landscape of SA’s parliamentary debates.

Since 2014, when the Red Berets burst on to the scene, parliament moved from a dull old boys’ club to a platform of robust debate.

But their high-pitched volume and childish behaviour inside the House turned off many. The manhandling of a journalist by Floyd Shivambu and the assault of a white police officer, allegedly by EFF MPs, were acts of uncivilised people that must never be repeated. But the EFF managed to keep the governing party on its toes and woke the opposition parties from their slumber to do their job and hold the executive to account.

They forced a sitting president to pay back taxpayers’ money and succeeded to have land expropriation without compensation adopted.

The EFF lately had educated debates on issues people could identify with. The jury is out as to whether the young ANC deployees will live up to the expectation of their party, or match the EFF on the parliamentary floor, the main reason they are being deployed in the first place.

Or will they flounder and prove to be only a pack of poodles barking at Malema and company? Deploying former student leaders as MPs can be dangerous and cause resentment within the party because they jumped the queue while a large number of cadres were waiting for deployment since 1994.

Also, this exposes the level of desperation in trying to make up the numbers, rather than to achieve quality.

One ANC member told me he would rather have a branch executive committee deployee with experience of community problems conducting door-to-door campaigns as his MP than a single-term student leader with no real grassroots leadership experience.

He claimed sweet soundbites and the shouting of party slogans on television screens were used as criteria for deployment.

The #FeesMustFall brigade who jumped the queue, and the “Oros” Maine Damascan-route gang would struggle to match Malema’s Red Berets’ qualitative inputs in debates.

In the past 24 years, the ANC deployed howlers, rather than researchers and fact checkers. The quality of its back benchers was also substandard. They never bothered to read any document or parliamentary reports.

Why would you read if your job is to stand up and raise a point of order or point of correction against your opponent? Why would you worry about doing constituency work when your task is to shout down the opposition, or defend an errant president and his executive?

Let’s see real debates this time around.

Those who voted for you must feel they did not waste their time and energy in doing so.

Eric Naki

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