Many people consider the Protection of State Information Bill, due to become law, as a trifling thing, something politicians and lawyers need to concern themselves with. Many people aren’t sure what all the hype is about. They wore black today because it is slimming, not because they could care less for an increasingly authoritarian and paranoid government which seems hell-bent on further stultifying the already illiterate and mostly apathetic citizenry.
The howls and complaints from media organizations and concerned citizens are being largely dismissed, either as the bias of parties motivated by self-interest, or much worse, as a bleating of the minority, or a class of elitists who think they’re more important than the government. If the government succeeds in tarring the opposition to this bill as a rabble of unjustified whingers, they show their hand in another way – by patronizing and underestimating the self-respect a great many South Africans have for themselves.
Allister Sparks, commentator and veteran journalist said that he thinks not only that the ANC have lost their soul, but also that they have “become very stupid” by attempting to keep information not from the media, but from the people of this country. The minister championing the legislation is none other than Travelgate fraudster and current minister of Intelligence Siyabonga Cwele, perhaps better known for his own ignorance over his wife’s lucrative international illegal drug business. He maintains that the bill is primarily about state security.
The enemies of freedom, openness and truth are of two kinds: Those who are not interested or even aware of what is going on, happily watching soap-operas and giggling about tabloid gossip; and the ANCs own MPs, commanded not only to be compulsorily present at the vote in Parliament, but also explicitly ordered to vote for it. Perhaps conscience will persuade one or two of the latter group to vote for their values and the principles of freedom and democracy, but I am not hopeful. The ANC has shown that it is prepared to give little more than a polite nod to the people who elected, fought and died for it and to devote a lot more of its’ time to keeping snout firmly in the trough of self-enrichment. Those fat, lazy, sycophantic, deployed cadres in Parliament will do exactly what they’re told to do; and so soon there will be a veil drawn over the increasingly clandestine activities of an increasingly dishonest and greedy government.
Revolutions are always preceded and followed by euphoria, public participation, transparency and popular democracy. After a time, the incumbent party get too comfortable, they forget the people, and the reason they were elected. The people become impatient. The government start to resent any questioning of their authority, becoming more and more insecure. To secure themselves they start making laws to control the people, often using examples of the very system they fought against before the revolution. They start to talk down to the people, becoming patronising and even scornful. Not long after that they zero in on their critics and find unsavoury ways to deal with people who criticise them publicly, or who run counter to their propaganda. The slow, steady march toward Totalitarianism has begun.
Ask yourself, whether you’re an ANC MP or an ordinary civilian, what you hold dear: Are liberty, freedom of expression, truth and transparency worth fighting for? If they are not, what on earth is?