Politicians should be role models - ZumaComment on this story
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has called for greater respect and tolerance in Parliament following this week’s heated debate, when MPs threatened each other with violence.
But his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, was less bothered by the conduct of certain MPs, saying parliaments in nature are like “beer halls” and this should be accepted.
Responding to his critics on Thursday following his budget vote speech, Zuma said it was important to underline certain elements he noticed during the course of Wednesday’s debate in the National Assembly.
The debate became chaotic when Economic Freedom Fighters MPs referred to ministers by their first names, with one MP threatening to deal with deputy minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela “outside”.
The EFF MPs lost their cool when Manamela compared their leader, Julius Malema, to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
“There are some elements that that I noticed in the course of the debate on Thursday which talks to these matter I’m mentioning, particularly respect and tolerance.
“It is important that we take respect from our own families in society generally and any other organisation. But I think the expectation is more for political leaders.”
He said the National Assembly is one of the “important leading houses” in our country where the public representatives assemble to debate matters of national importance.
“I think it is important to bear in mind that one of these lessons we need to give to our people is how we handle one another when we are handling matters of our nation.”
Zuma added that MPs should now work on “building the fibre of our nation”.
“We should make it our responsibility as leaders to teach our children and the youth basic human values of respect and tolerance.”
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Ramaphosa said the behaviour of some MPs was just a passing phase.
“Parliaments are often beer hall type of theatres where you know people enjoy debate. You should see other parliaments in the world.
“The British parliament, they go at each other and they have a setting that I think is quite wonderful. They’re so close to each other, they’re just across the table and almost at punch length and go hammer and tongs at each other.”
Ramaphosa said he has seen parliaments where people engage in fists fights, and ”literally go at each other and punch each other and some come out bleeding”.
“We still have some decorum in our parliament and those who were engaged in debate on Thursday are still new, are still getting used to parliamentary exchanges and they were responding to phrases. They thought some of the phrases were insulting, they felt some of phrases were inappropriate.”
He said this, too, will die down over time.
“It’ll go back to normal. And as they say, the more things change, particularly in a parliament like ours, the more they remain the same.”