EFF and the power of the terrible toddlers.
Written by: Lance Claasen
The newly formed Economic Freedom Front (EFF) in their red jump suits and chubby cheeks are banging their hats on parliamentary furniture has become the political toddlers of South African parliamentary life. They are doing what all toddlers do- disrupt, challenge and throw tantrums. They know the power and meaning of disruption and despite their size they make the entire house revolve around their needs and wants.
They are like a teeny tot who asks uncomfortable questions to its parents-
“Daddy, why you play with mommy alone at night?” or “when are you going to pay back the money?”
It holds those in authority accountable by embarrassing them morally. When they get no answer to their awkward questions, they will shout and scream in front of the neighbours. Just when you think a good hiding will stop the tears, they will shout and scream some more. The parent who thinks power lies in your ability to punish the toddler though slapping is sadly misguided. You cannot outshout the toddler. They have more power over you when you lose control. You are on their turf in a race to the bottom and they will win every time.
The EFF’s disruptive impact has even turned the well behaved rule obeying the members of Parliament of the Democratic Alliance to the dark side of disorder. ‘Like good girls gone bad’. They too yelled at the speaker of the house “You must go, you must go”. Then glanced at each other, asking are we doing this bad thing right? They have had to play second fiddle to the political toddlers, who have stolen their position of leading the opposition.
As motherly as the speaker of the House Baleka Mbete thinks she is, she cannot enforce respect onto the red clad MP’s who won 6% of the vote in last year’s general election. Wagging her finger and threatening them has not worked and will not work. The more rules you enforce, the more powerful the toddler becomes, as they break every single one. Thumbing their nose at any authority you think you might have.
So what options does the matronly speaker have to get some order into her house? She has to realise that institutional power is limited. Like any parent of an unruly tot, you have to gain their cooperation. You cannot govern a situation or a person, without them participating in it.
You have to ignore the tantrums. If those in red start hitting their toys on the table, dissolve the house. Turn off the lights until they tire of their own tantrum. Once they are worn out from the kicking and screaming, then you invite them for a discussion and ask them how we can make things better. Make the little tigers feel like big people, acknowledge their concerns and chart a new path.
Baleka Mbete and those in the ruling party have to realise that just like any parent, being in charge, doesn’t mean you have the power. You have to listen to be truly powerful.
Everyone just wants to be heard.