Whenever the patrons in Boggel’s Place get bored of taklking about the drought – which is often – they love talking about less serious matters, like the parliament, for instance. It is here, they all agree, that people have fun and relax – a veritable example to the masses of hard working folks who have no sense of balance in their lives. Gertruida says people die of heart attacks because they bottle up stress, try to do the impossible by making ends meet and by paying their taxes regularly. This, she maintains, is a mentality of self-destruction. To live a full and happy life, one should let off steam occasionally, be transparently honest, and deserve the respect of your peers.
After Vetfaan’s experiment to generate electricity, the group in the bar reverted to parliament mode – just to show the burly farmer how much they appreciated his efforts. After all, the dream of making Rolbos independent of ESCOM’s efforts to deprive the country of lights at night (which Servaas believes is driven by the diligence of South Africa’s booming crime industry) is a honourable endeavour and something one should encourage, not to make fun of.
“I say, Honourable Vetfaan, you certainly made that fan turn at a tremendous speed. Quite laudable, I’d reckon. A fine effort.”
Kleinpiet doesn’t address this statement to Vetfaan, of course. That would be unthinkable in a parliamentary setting. No, under these circumstances, the statement is vaguely addressed to the Speaker, who is none other than the inimitable Gertruida. Like our esteemed Speaker in the House, she knows everything.
“Thank you, Honourable Kleinpiet. Do I have a second for that motion?” Gertruida wears a powdered wig, something Boggel insisted on after following the Oscar trial. She has donned her glasses for the occasion to convey the gravity of being in charge of parliament. Servaas actually laughed out loud when she took her seat behind the counter, an effort the others agreed fitted in well with the conduct of a seasoned parliamentarian.
“Honourable Speaker, I would like to second the motion by Honourable Kleinpiet about the fantastic achievements by Honourable Vetfaan. Although his experiment failed dismally, I can think of several precedents in government that was lauded in a similar manner for similar results.”
Several grunts of ‘Aye’. ‘Yesss’ and ‘Eissh!’ followed this statement, much like the ‘hallelujahs’ during a charismatic sermon.
“I object, my Honourable Lady. When you consider the result, there wasn’t much honourable in what Honourable Vetfaan did.” It is Precilla’s turn to play the role of the opposition. She’s wearing a blue T-shirt and does a rather convincing little toyi-toyi dance to emphasise her point. “I demand a commission of inquiry to investigate the waste of money associated with the events surrounding the experiment. A fan was dismantled, a dynamo destroyed and I calculate that 40 litres of petrol was wasted. Petrol, Honourable Speaker, we have to pay for….”
She doesn’t get any further as the Speaker rules her out of order. “Honourable Precilla! Please retract that statement!”
“May I remind you, Honourable Lady, that there is only honour amongst thieves?”
“Order! Order!!” Gertruida bangs the empty peach brandy bottle on the counter. “Retract the statement, Honourable member.”
Kleinpiet sniggers at this, muttering that there’s nothing honourable about his member.
“Well, Honourable Speaker, then I’ll quote Socrates to you: “The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” Sooo…I’ll pretend to retract the statement, which makes me honourable.”
Getruida doesn’t even flinch. “You dare to throw quotes at me, Honourable Precilla? Well, in my position, I simply lo-o-ve the honour associated with it. Let me quote you Shakespeare:”…I love the name of honour more than I fear death.” So, my dear Honourable Precilla, you shall leave the house and return with an appropriate apology.”
To be chased out of the Rolbos parliament like this, is no disgrace. Like in the institution in Cape Town, all the words and all the posturing are merely symbolic, and designed not to humiliate, but to amuse. When Precilla returns with a freshly baked milk tart (made the old-fashioned way), she receives a standing ovation.
“I don’t feel so honourable any more,” she says, batting her eyes at Kleinpiet. “I move that we ajourn this session and get on with real life.”
“And I certainly second that.” Kleinpiet hugs the honourable member of the opposition. “We have more…pressing matters to attend to.”
The occasional Rolbos Parliament, just like the real one, may seem a bit chaotic if you didn’t know the protocol. In fact, concerning both these houses, Fiodor Dostoevsky worded it masterfully in Crime and Punishment when he wrote “Everything which is of use to mankind is honourable.” Gertruida reminds the group at the bar of these famous words as they finish the milk tart.
“We use our parliament for laughs, you guys, and that makes it a honourable thing. After all, your beliefs don’t tell the world who you are, your behaviour does. So, as long as those chaps in Cape Town keep us in stitches, it makes them useful. How honourable is that?”
Disclaimer: Boggel denies any resemblance with the REAL parliament, saying no adult would ever descend to such low levels like we find in Boggel’s Place. He’s still arguing with Gertruida as you read this. Fortunately, they have a goodly supply of peach brandy, which will see them hugging at the end of the evening. And that, you’ll have to agree, is completely unparliamentary.