You will have noticed much violence in the Gauteng legislature of late. Parliamentarians being locked inside Parliament by use of chairs. Police using tear gas against EFF supporters wearing onesies, helmets and other attire. The rules of parliament in Gauteng demand formal attire from parliamentarians. The uniform of mine workers, and the clothing of domestic workers such as maids do not count as formal according to the provincial Parliament located in Gauteng.
It is not, however, as though EFF members cannot afford to wear a suit. It is very likely in fact that EFF women had to go out and buy maids' outfits and EFF men had to go out and buy overalls and safety-helmets. Julius Malema has often worn a suit. He has even had the audacity to bare the bottom half of his birthday suit on one occasion. This is certainly a man with more than one suit to wear, who does not need to wear overalls. In fact, the EFF wearing overalls or the uniform of maids: is a bit of a fancy dress occasion, resembling a uniform for the group. Of course, the ravages of gender theory do not seem to have affected the EFF whatsoever. The men all dress as miners, the women all dress as maids. The EFF in essence is making a statement, partially a cry of bloody murder against the ANC, partly an attempt to associate with the far left and unions. And more than anything, an attempt to ruffle feathers, an attempt to rouse rabbles brought to South Africa by the man who suggested we go to war with our neighbour Botswana because they like Americans.
Most commentaries on this issue have missed the point. They claim that the ANC is elitist, perhaps as stereotypical and false a statement as portraying all men as mine workers and all women as maids. They believe that demanding formal attire is the equivalent of persecuting the poor. They compare it to Nelson Mandela wearing formal tribal gear at his trial. They should perhaps also compare it to the colonial era demand that ‘natives’ wear trousers in town.
The thing about it is, that the EFF are well paid by Parliament. They can perfectly afford to wear suits, they do outside of parliament in fact. It is a bit like the Communist kid refusing to wear his school uniform and instead wearing a shirt with Che Guevara proudly emblazoned upon the front. It is perhaps also resembling protest by Ukrainian group Femen, in which they bare their intimate assets in violation of morality rules, to make a point.
Does this make mine workers and maids the victim of politicking by the EFF? Are they the butt of a bad joke? Or do the highly educated EFF parliamentarians desire to portray themselves as from a class they do not belong to. Mine workers and maids if they are lucky will take a taxi home perhaps to a shanty town. The EFF in their attempt at a Venetian ball at Parliament, in their fancy dress party uniform: can climb into a BMW or a limousine and cruise happily back to their large homes in Sandton. By dressing like mine workers the EFF can isolate these social stereotypes and the EFF can give mine workers a message, that they are not welcome in Parliament.
The question no one is asking is why Parliament has the rules it does. We don’t see Julius Malema objecting to demands from tribal chiefs that women not wear pants. We do not see Julius Malema objecting to school uniforms. Why does parliament demand that parliamentarians dress in a certain manner?
In the British Parliament, or rather the Royal Court at the time: a true endeavour emerged involving formal and informal dress. The most important women in the Royal Court would wear their pyjamas to the court chambers. The most important men likewise would dress very casually. The least important people present would dress the most formally. Formal dress was a sign of respect to others. Formal dress was a sign of respect to the Royal Court and the social class system of the time.
Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, gave a parable about heaven involving dress. He said that those who were figuratively not properly dressed to enter heaven would be destroyed. His parable was thus: a king invited people to his wedding. Certain people came to his wedding but not in formal wedding clothing. The King destroyed these people. Dressing inappropriately was a sign of grave disrespect to the King and the union he was to enter.
The supporters of Julius Malema bring up the case of Gandhi. They state how Gandhi went from dressing as a Westerner, to wearing nothing but a loincloth: the equivalent of underwear. They state how Gandhi met the Queen dressed as such. The problem with the argument is thus: Gandhi dressed in such a manner so as to disrespect the Queen and the British Empire, so as to show that he is a rebel who has no respect for Britain or its Queen. Gandhi demanded that Indians wear Indian attire and not adhere to the dictates of Western fashion. Gandhi was putting himself as an equal to the Queen, in fact as a superior to her.
Whatever culture you adhere to, would you dress casually to a funeral or to a wedding? Would you dress casually to dates with the person you respect deeply? Especially in the amalgamate of different cultures forming the common cultural phenomenon of the so-called black culture in South Africa, dressing formally to formal events is important. Imagine if you were getting married, and a person who can afford a very expensive suit, and has one: decided to wear fancy dress and come as a vampire. Would this be respect or disrespect? Would you celebrate them or consider them to be a disruptive force with no respect for you? Imagine if someone came to your wedding wearing a Che Guevara shirt, and a sign spouting Communist ideology? Are they not hijacking your wedding for their own cause? Are they not showing disrespect to you by not dressing appropriately for the occasion?
Imagine if Julius Malema and his followers were instead dressing as Catholic priests and nuns. Imagine if they were doing so specifically so they could disrupt Parliament. Would the Catholic Church be impressed with such actions, or consider Julius Malema to be mocking the Catholic Church and politicking at their expense?
Imagine if you went to the doctor, and your doctor, not being a mine worker, was for some sort of jest wearing the attire of a mine worker? Imagine if you went to the doctor and your doctor, not being a domestic worker, was in some sort of jest wearing the attire of a French maid? Imagine if you went to the doctor and the doctor was dressed as a vampire. Would you consider your doctor to be showing you respect or disrespect? Is it appropriate for your doctor to wear fancy dress, and dress as a profession they do not belong to? Would it be appropriate for mine workers to go underground wearing the attire of a doctor, or of a French maid? Doctors dress in a certain way because of their profession. Lawyers also, whether they have the money or not will wear a suit. Is it comfortable to always wear a suit? Is it comfortable to wear it in the heat of the day? Lawyers nonetheless wear a suit. Lawyers are instructed to bring honour to their profession in the way they dress and in the way they act at all times. A lawyer might dress as a miner or a maid to a fancy dress party or on Halloween. A lawyer might dress as such if they are going down a mine. However, would you consider your lawyer to be respectful towards you if they did not wear a suit?
The EFF had every chance to give their parliamentarian positions to maids and to miners. They chose instead to give these positions to highly educated elites. To add insult to injury to the sort of people who vote for the EFF: they then dressed like their perhaps incorrect stereotype of what their constituents dress like. Do mine workers only ever wear overalls? Do mine workers wear helmets to a date with a woman, to a wedding or to a funeral? People are not what they do, people are who they are. Julius Malema is suggesting that mine workers would disrespect Parliament by dressing in their everyday work clothing rather than as though they were going to a wedding or to a date.
Parliamentarians have worn formal African wear before. If you could wear it to an African wedding, you can wear it to Parliament. If you could wear it to an African funeral, you can wear it to Parliament.
The reason I cannot show up in Parliament wearing board shorts, or my pyjamas and slippers: is because Parliament is not like a shopping centre. Parliament is not like my home. Parliament is not like an average South African workplace. Parliament has a set uniform which is not a party uniform. While we adhere to party politics in South Africa, we do not have only one representative for each party, specifically because we believe in South Africa in the importance of each and every individual parliamentary representative being an individual. The EFF insisting on a uniform for the parliamentarians, takes away this individuality and the individual strength of their parliamentarians. The EFF is one man, his name is Julius Malema. Like China’s Mao, he demands that his supporters wear a uniform. Their minds likewise must adhere to his mind.
If anything, by refusing to adhere to the dress codes of Parliament, dressed in fancy dress in the guise of a mine worker or a maid, Julius Malema is suggesting that mine workers and maids are nothing but their jobs. He has made them the cruel butt of his joke: the person attending a wedding or funeral dressed in casual clothing. This is not a show of respect towards mine workers and maids, but a betrayal of them as nothing but what their jobs demand they dress as. This is in fact disrespect by Malema towards these people, whether they realise it or not.
If you ask anyone who supports the EFF attempt to force Parliament in Gauteng to allow the wearing of onesies: they will grin very widely. The reason for their grin is the disrespect Julius Malema intends to convey. They think it great that he is usurping the rules of Parliament, and thus the authority of the parliamentary body. They think it wonderful that his supporters desire to lock people into buildings and fight with police. Che Guevara is famous because he was a rebel. As a doctor he broke his oath and slaughtered countless civilians. Yet, he is a ‘hero’ because he stood up to the man. Julius Malema first came to light to the public when he bore his arse to his opponents. He is loved because he is a disruptor. He is not a force for peace or unity. Imagine then if he became president as his supporters would have be. Would he accept the type of disrespect he has paid the current authorities? Or would he object to it and punish them?