President Cyril Ramaphosa missed a golden opportunity — nay, he shirked his responsibility — to forcefully rebuke the sheer thuggery and bigotry which were on display right in front of his eyes in parliament this week.

The vulgar language, expletives and racist taunts that coursed through the corridors of parliament were not only a betrayal of the kind of society we want to build, but it is almost sacrilegious to utter them in a place that is a temple of people’s noble aspirations. It’s simply mind-boggling that parliament, the pinnacle of years of struggle and sacrifice, doesn’t seem to give some people cause to pause or restrain themselves. They couldn’t be bothered. It could just as well have been a shebeen. After such outrageous behaviour, these honourable members probably go away to high five each other for a job well done. I don’t think they even care whether their children were watching.

No, our parliament should not be used as some kind of theatre where small minds seek to divide society into victims and villains and to roil our wounds for short-term political gain. It’s neither a bar nor a boxing ring. Ramaphosa cannot just sit there and enjoy the spectacle. He may have taken a cue from his predecessor who simply watched and giggled; but Jacob Zuma was the reason for the commotion. Opening his mouth often added fuel to the fire. Ramaphosa did mealy mouth something about adhering to nonracialism, but it was a generality that lacked conviction. It was left to Baleka Mbete the next day to remind adults about etiquette and decency. They’re unlikely to listen to her though. There’s political profit to this mayhem. Boorishness pays. At the swearing-in ceremony of some of Ramaphosa’s cabinet ministers in parliament early this year chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, realising that Ramaphosa was going to pass off the occasion without comment, took it upon himself to remind the...

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