Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Democracy In South Africa Dead?

"█████ ██ █ ████everything ███ █████ is█████ ████ ████ fine ████ ███ █ █████ love,█████ ██████ ███ your █████ ████ government #BlackTuesday" - This is a message that has been doing the rounds today on the web, and on Facebook. The topic of conversation? The controversial "Protection Of Information Bill, aka the "POI" Bill. It was today passed, after being railroaded through Parliament.

"Railroading" referring to the practice of ignoring due process, flouting procedure, disregarding all public protest - and forging ahead to in essence, force a piece of legislature through the law-making process and down the throats of the people who employ them - us.

Of the same topic, Wilmot James, DA federal chairman, tweeted: "the ANC took 83 years to build its reputation, 17 years to enjoy it & one day to destroy it. #WeMissYouMandela".

‎News24 today reported:  "All 264 ANC MPs have been ordered to the National Assembly to approve the information bill and there is a clear warning - vote along party lines or face the consequences."

What a nice party we have in government, ordering their minions to vote along party lines. Well, I suppose that's why they are called minions? If anything, this indicates precisely how much the ANC wanted this bill to pass - and what is in the offing now that it HAS passed? What can we expect - a total blackout of any government/ANC scandals in the line of what has happened in the past - corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, fraud, abuse of power and resources?

If this was allowed to pass today in Parliament, despite all the provisions in the Constitution which oppose it - then the people of South Africa need to ask themselves: "is democracy in South Africa dead"?

Once again my country, South Africa is the laughing stock of the free world - an outright embarrassment - for turning back on its tracks to forsake hard-won democracy for fascism and dictatorial totalitarian rule. This is the country once described as "a miracle" for embracing democratic rule and not tearing itself apart in the dangerous days of the early 1990's. Is this really the same country? Is this really the same ANC that fought so hard for all the ideals it is now tossing aside in the interests of pursuing absolute power?  You DO know what they say about absolute power, don't you?

Has South Africa just demonstrated that it is on the path to despotism, corruption and self destruction - like 99% of all other post-colonial African states which it has such close ties to?

I feel that by this act, the ANC has shown its true colors - that it is anti-freedom, anti-good governance, and anti-democracy. "State secrets"? WHAT state secrets? Are we at war with anyone? Or is it just all the corruption and fraud its members get nailed for that the ANC wants to cover up? You tell me.

Before this bill, up to this day, every major fraud case involving a member of parliament or the ruling party that resulted in the uncovering of serious misconduct or corruption saw the light of day in the media. If this Bill had been in place back in the day, we would today still be in the dark about the Arms Deal corruption. And you can bet your bottom dollar that all the people jailed for corruption since, would still have been in their offices.

Remember the Scorpions? They were the elite police anti-corruption unit, busting high-flying fraudsters and crime syndicates with a high success rate. And what happened? Parliament closed them down, crushed them flat - because far too much attention was being paid to their own activities, and too much of their own dirty laundry was getting fresh air in public - forcing their prosecution. Even their successors - the Hawks - wings were clipped to protect the MP's from the attention of the law the rest of us commoners are expected to live by. This Bill is only the next logical step: Don't stamp out corruption in government - just prevent it from coming out. Sweet.

SA GLAAD is a founding signatory to the Right2Know Campaign.  We endorse their statements against this heinous Bill.  We have to stand with freedom and democratic values. My colleague, Cobus Fourie on the Board of SA GLAAD, had the following to say:

"The Securocrats behind the Protection of State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill) paradoxically aren't secretive about their baseless paranoia. Recent sideways swipes at the collection of dissenting civil society organisations merely prove this paranoia. An insinuation was made by the Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, that the dissenting civil society and others are merely the proxies of international spies.

'In Wall Street the 99% is protesting because they are ignored while in South Africa it is the 1% protesting because they want to impose their will on the 99%.' - Dennis Dlomo, advisor to State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, to Jeremy Maggs on eTV yesterday.

"The security apparatus was creative enough to manufacture a whole new offence: that of information peddling. It has been met with utter disbelief. According to the Secrecy Bill 'information peddling' is the act of deliberate propagation of false information. One thinks of the infamous Browse Mole report and other absurd actions of the security cluster in the past. Fiction, speculation and gossiping, it seems, is effectively outlawed. Very paranoid and very creative" - Cobus Fourie, SA GLAAD.

And of course labelling information which may well be quite true and which may merit attention from legal bodies and public interest as "false" simply because it is classified as "sensitive". Shame - poor shy and retiring 'information'.

"The DA called the consultation process a "farce" saying the ANC had only consulted in five of the eight provinces under its control. Consultations were still going ahead the night before the Bill went to Parliament. In Mangaung, 100 residents turned up for the hearing but the ANC MP who was meant to conduct the hearing failed to appear. Instead, fliers about the Bill were handed out, a choir entertained the crowd and then food was served." - Mail & Guardian. 

So the "consultations" never ever even happened as far as the average citizen is concerned. It was just forced through regardless. And in time it will be tarred over as the government acting in the best interests of "national security" on behalf of the voters who put them in office and who kept them there up till now.

And add to that the ANC crony who I watched on TV saying in parliament today that those making the "fuss" against the bill are simply proving their point that they haven't read it. I think that speaks for itself.  The ANC clearly wishes to paint those protesting this violation of their constitutional rights as "ignorant" - and intimates that we just don't understand complicated things like lawmaking and parliamentary procedure, and these things should therefore be left in the very capable hands of those hijacking the governmental process for their own gain. 

If the supporters of liberty, democracy and equality stand idly by and allow this to bill to continue into law, then we might as well just kiss our democracy and civil rights and freedom goodbye now. 

What people need to understand is this: This is more than just posturing and parading for a live TV audience. It is also more than just an info bill. It's a test of strength. If the the ruling party can ignore public pressure and shamelessly hammer this through Parliament by sheer force, then what will ever prevent them from pressing through other draconian bills which will also violate articles of the Constitution afterwards at will?

Watch. Things will move very quickly now - before the bill can be overturned. And then it will all be hushed up, wallpapered over and painted any color you like, as long as it's the color they tell you to like. Big Brother is in the house now.

I think they already have all these thoughts in mind. "Cadre deployment" in the judiciary was carefully planned if one looks back at the controversial appointment of a homophobic judge (Mogoeng) as chief justice now, doesn't it? All that talk about the ANC chipping away at the underpinnings of the Constitution seems a self-fulfilling prophecy now.

If they win this battle, as unconstitutional as it is - and the Opposition cannot stop it - then they may feel that they cannot be stopped in future, and probably with good reason. What will be next? Open censorship? Direct persecution of minority groups and political rivals? Detention without trial? Will political rivals and prominent social consciousness figures start to vanish in the night again as they did in the "bad old days" under Apartheid, never to be seen again? Remember the journo that was abducted by the police a year ago from a media office in Johannesburg from a protest meeting about this very Bill? Are the bad old days truly here again?

The SA Human Rights Commission and Public Protector both commendably spoke out against today's vote and the bill. Considering everything, this made barely a blip on the radar - and with the SAHRC being suitably toothless (despite 4 years of paper-shuffling, that homophobe, Jon Qwelane is STILL SA's ambassador to "kill the gays" Uganda - right where the ANC placed him and keeps him) not much will happen. Perhaps their leaders will shortly be "redeployed" elsewhere, where they can do no harm to the grand plan in motion. "Phut" goes our democracy.

Frankly, in order for democracy to survive, there HAS to be be freedom of the press. Without it, everything else fails and what you have left is no longer a democracy.

Ironic, isn't it? That we've been warning about this sort of thing coming for the past 4 years now. The irony isn't even gratifying - because the same people we warned back then won't even connect the dots or remember that they didn't listen. Who's sorry now? We all are. That's who.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.

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