EFF leader Julius Malema accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of beating his late former wife. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
EFF leader Julius Malema accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of beating his late former wife. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

After the chaos in parliament last week, South Africans could have been forgiven for thinking it could not get any worse.

But, sadly, things did get worse on Tuesday when the ANC launched a ham-fisted attempt to punish EFF leader Julius Malema for disrupting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address last week.

ANC MP Boy Mamabolo triggered still more chaos when, in the opening hour of debate on the address, he interrupted Malema’s speech to ask him if he still beats his wife. This led at first to a chilling moment in the house when Malema, after waiting for the baying of the ANC benches to quieten down, said “don’t worry I am in charge here”.

Chilling because he was quite right. Nothing the ANC could do was able to disturb his karma and he carried on regardless. Not only did the attempt to punish Malema with endless points of order fail miserably, but it also gave him an enhanced platform and publicity, which surely was not the intention.

Malema did, however, sink as low as Mamabolo by, after denying that he had ever raised a hand to his wife, accusing Ramaphosa, in turn, of beating his late ex-wife.

It is common cause that SA has one of the highest rates of violent crimes against women and children. Indeed, women are beaten and murdered, often with impunity, on a daily basis. Our newspapers are full, day after day, of reports of women being molested, raped or killed. The same applies to children.

Even MPs and members of the cabinet have been shown to have assaulted women. It is no laughing matter, and it is certainly not a matter for scoring political points in what was supposed to be a sitting on serious issues facing the country.

The exchanges triggered a social media storm, with Mamabolo and Malema being slammed by women, journalists and activists for making the daily pain of abused women a political plaything. Rightly so.

It was thoughtless of Mamabolo to use gender-based violence as a political football, and it shamed his party colleagues who failed to rein him in.

Both men were indescribably ugly in their intention to punish the other side without due regard for the damage they were causing.

It fell to DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone to remonstrate with the two men for their dehumanising behaviour. She quite rightly said they were a disgrace.

Ironically, as this was going on during the debate, it should be remembered that one of Ramaphosa’s promises in his speech last Thursday was to toughen up legislation dealing with gender-based violence — such as the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Act.

South Africans everywhere should be outraged. Each MP earns almost R1m a year of taxpayers’ money and the total bill for parliament in its entirety is close to R1bn.

That is an awful lot of money to pay for a gathering of smug, self-satisfied bullies. Women MPs should take action against members of their own parties for unseemly behaviour and censure should be applied by the management of parliament.

South Africans deserve better value for their money than this boorish behaviour that trivialises their pain and ignores some of the most ghastly realities of SA life.

To Mamabolo, who started it, and to Malema, who gleefully participated, we should all say “shame on you, shame on you”.

SA’s problems are well documented and there is no need to repeat them here. But what is worth repeating is that the country’s crisis of leadership makes that job much harder. Having adult leadership would go a long way.