Parliament is running an advertisement in some of the papers. This venereal institution is not, as one might think, looking for a Speaker capable of keeping order without calling in an air strike. A Speaker who speaks rather than shrieks.
Instead, this is a “Call for Submissions”. Being two sheets to the wind, I read it as a call for submissives, which was funny because, with a few violently quelled or easily bought-off exceptions, we already are a nation of submissives. We are more submissive than even Shrien Dewani, although I suspect the German Master is a lot more assertive than Jacob Zuma.
The advert goes on: “Parliament invites you to …” I got so excited that I knocked my beer into my lap. Invites me to what? Dinner? A fancy dress party? An execution?
Sadly, no. Instead, parliament was inviting me to “comment on finding solutions to address vandalism and theft of water infrastructure in South Africa”. Talk about raising and dashing ones hopes in a single poorly worded sentence.
We are not even being invited to find solutions. Merely to comment on finding solutions. And what is this about finding solutions to address vandalism? Why not cut to the chase and simply find solutions to vandalism?
The gibberish continues. “To broaden the insights and solutions to the increased and new challenges to the water sector, the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation will hold public hearings with affected and interested stakeholders …” And so on and so forth.
We are nothing if not stakeholders. And this is what we are being asked to address:
* “Whether and why South Africa needs a water plan that takes into account aging energy and water infrastructure.” Hmm. A tough one. Probably best answered by some kind of professor. If one isn’t available, a fifth grader will do.
* “The financial and economic model required to create synergies between institutions responsible for energy and those responsible for water.” Parliament, let me remind you that this is being put to people who are reading the Sunday paper in various states of physical and mental disarray. Don’t talk to us about creating synergies when we can barely find our way to the kitchen.
* “Solutions to address vandalism and theft of water infrastructure in South Africa.” Many of us have the actual physical addresses of vandals and thieves, but I don’t suppose that’s what the Portfolio Committee is looking for. Solutions, you say? Let’s see. Once could, as outrageous as it sounds, encourage the police to form a specialised unit dedicated to apprehending deviants with a penchant for fiddling with water infrastructure. Sick people with a thing for taps and pipes. For all we know, there may even be a cabal of dangerously unstable mavericks who interfere with dam walls.
There is a chance, I suppose, that this advertisement is a devilishly cunning exercise in buck-passing. Ask us, the common herd, for submissions, then make the appeal so arbitrary and unreasonable that by the time the deadline comes along, we haven’t got it together to submit anything because we’re still holding our heads and scratching our crotches and wondering what it all means.
“We asked the public for their input,” the Portfolio Committee will say, “and they came up with nothing. They deserve to have no water or sanitation.” And they might be right. They have found a way to get us to scapegoat ourselves.
I should draw your attention to a paragraph that says the committee “retains the right to …” I needn’t go on. But if I were you, I wouldn’t bother sitting next to the phone waiting for an invitation to head down to parliament to share your brilliant ideas in person.
Apart from anything else, this kind of artful advertising is like a doctor putting a notice in the morning paper saying, “I have truckloads of patients with a purple rash. Please send ideas for treatment.”
The ANC’s Freedom Charter says the people shall share in the country’s wealth. It says nothing about us sharing the guilt caused by the ANC’s inability to govern the country properly.
The notion of a shared culpability cannot and must not be used by those who would absolve themselves of responsibility. This sounds like something Thomas Jefferson might have said. But it’s not. I said it. And here I must give partial credit to the bottle of Glen Grant single malt that the Whisky Fairy left at the very back of what I always thought was an empty cupboard in the kitchen.
So, anyway. My message to the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation – and all portfolio committees – is this. We, the people, are happy to help out if the request is genuine. But do remember that some of us are busy with other things. Like trying to stay alive. If there’s a problem, make an effort to sort it out yourselves. It’s why you pay yourselves so much of our money.