Political swagger

2007-12-20 00:00

The picture of the Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, poking his umbrella in a fit of rage at a cameraman at the ANC’s conference in Polokwane is an indication of an attitude to the media which is disturbing. The ANC’s Smuts Ngonyama has apologised for the conference’s shoddy treatment of the press. Yet this is a mere cover for an alarming intolerance of critical comment, an attitude which pervades both the Mbeki and the Zuma camps. The conference is to consider a policy option which would entail a stronger element of government control over the media and this is a worrying sign for this young democracy.

Meanwhile, the “blue light” brigades, of which this newspaper has been critical in recent months, have been evident at the conference, with delegates having to pull over to the side of the road while their leaders in smart government cars, accompanied by the inevitable bodyguards, speed past. Thus the division between the powerful and the powerless has come to penetrate the ANC itself.

The powerless have flexed their muscles and spoken through their votes by electing new leaders, but what guarantee is there that the new leadership will behave in any way different from that of the old?

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