Why Julius Malema is quite wrong to pursue his Parliamentary helmet and onesie campaign.

Aug 03, 2014, 02:36 PM

Why Julius Malema is quite wrong to pursue his Parliamentary helmet and onesie campaign.

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.