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Info Bill: The final word

11 May 2012, 11:30

So, SANRAL is on the run, and for the first time in years the South African public tastes victory after another financial threat is averted, instead of the normal suck-it-up-and-pay routine, we’ve grown accustomed to.

In the political arena the scores are:

S.A Government:    387

People of S.A:             1

The next order of business on the agenda is the infamous Protection of State information Bill, or generally termed, Info Bill.

The dreaded proposed legislation had taken its place as the fiercest gargoyle on the roof of the ivory tower known as the Union Buildings. (...or was that Luthuli House? I always forget where the country is truly governed from).

The reason for this is not only vested in the Bill itself, but also what the relentless push by the Government towards it entails.

I would submit that the Info Bill is responsible for a myriad of suspect Government acts, amongst which is the controversial appointment of Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng, ahead of the apparent superiorly qualified Justice Moseneke; for many people, most of them judges themselves, the obvious choice as Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court.

Furthermore, the highly suspicious and irregular review of the Constitutional and High Courts of Appeal recently, can be construed as a clandestine attack on the mechanisms to counter the Info Bill.

Couple the above with calls for Constitutional reform, as well as blatant rent-a-crowd tactics to actually promote the Info Bill and support for it with the general public, as well as the pace at which the Bill was pushed through parliament, and it becomes evident that the ANC would do anything to get it passed as legislation.

The more burning question would be... why?

Initially, the Bill was called the Protection of Information Bill, a term the ruling party very quickly rebranded to its current name, after the overwhelming amount of opposition it received, mostly due to large scale media coverage criticising its very existence.

This could have been an effort to camouflage its purpose as something designed to ensure national security, somehow justifying its radical approach to the control of information flow.

The interesting bit is that the media also took it upon themselves to illustrate the devastating effect it would have on them, and moreover on South Africa’s status as a country that regards press freedom very highly; something unknown in South Africa, as the objectivity the media regards itself with, became subjective and opinionated.

Incidentally, it is this very constitutionally granted freedom of press, keeping South Africa from becoming the next Syria, or Egypt.

Consider the world during the past eighteen months, and most people would say that it was a time of revolutions as far as the Middle East was concerned.

The world witnessed as oil-rich desert nations toppled their leaders one after another, with some rulers bowing their knees relatively peacefully, and others ending up with newly established revolutionary groups’ AK-47’s in their faces, begging for mercy – in most cases a luxury they never extended to their people themselves.

This movement towards freedom soon received the term the’ Arab Spring’.

Most developed nations welcomed, and even assisted in these ‘coup by the masses’, encouraging the street justice it normally is accompanied by, especially considering Muammar Gadaffi’s swansong.

But what does this have to do with us? We’re not a dictatorship like the ‘militaristic’ Arabs... are we?

Rest assured, this has everything to do with us, as South Africa and the Middle East are comparable in many respects.

Firstly, our income inequality, as measured by the Gini Coefficient, is far worse than the Arab countries, a factor that normally incites public outcry to such a point where you have revolution on your hands. When the newest label used by the ANC Youth League, ‘Economic Revolution’ is considered, it becomes evident that income inequality is at the centre of the Malema crowd’s claim to fame.  

With the amount of young and unemployed people in S.A, you can bet that this movement struck a nerve, and will most probably only snowball from here on end, with or without Malema.

Secondly, public participation, or in our case, the lack of ANC participation in ANC policy, is a worrying factor. Factions within the ruling party has the ability to gain or lose the support of the masses. Case in point is Zuma’s administration, which is losing support, in terms of approval. True, the approval rating for the ANC at current is 63%, which isn’t bad, but it still shows signs of decline.

The biggest difference between South Africa and the Middle East is freedom.

This includes, democracy, press freedom, relative Government transparency, independent Courts, religious freedoms, and a legion of other’s too long to mention.

When you identify the pillars of what a free society means, you would end up with:

an independent and progressive judicial system, a free press (which includes the freedom to voice your own opinions),  freedom of association (which includes religion, gay rights and political opinions) and the right to select your own leaders (in short...democratic elections).

There are other, more specified freedoms, but in essence, they all stem from the four mentioned.

As a country, we’ve already demonstrated our intolerance to the oppression of freedom. Not even white people were free under apartheid, simply because only one of the four freedoms mentioned was available to them, being the right to vote.

Courts weren’t independent, the Government was ruled in terms of Parliamentary rule, rather than Constitutional rule, the press was mostly there to punt Afrikaner Nationalism (with the exception of some newspapers), and no one could legally associate with the banned political parties. (actually the worst of all was that we were all stuck with SABC 1, 2 and 3)

  

So, if the differentiating factor between us and the Arab’s is freedom...then why on earth is the ANC gunning for that as well?

What would stop the South African Spring to happen, possibly fuelled by the Youth League’s economic revolution?

When you grant yourself the power to gag the press, it simply isn’t sufficient to say, “...we won’t use it, as long as you revert to responsible journalism...”, which, essentially is what the Government is saying.

Another worrying factor are the by-products to passing this Bill as Law.

You have the Government meddling in two of the four basic freedoms, by reviewing the Courts and gagging the media. In the event that even one pillar is broken, the entire system automatically crumbles, hence the reason one refers to them as ‘pillars’!

What you have then, is the direct threat to freedom in South Africa; the only factor keeping this country from walking the path, of what is currently directionless, oil-rich wastelands, who can’t get an election going and ongoing factional fighting turning into rebellion, even after they achieved what they construed as freedom.

The reason... simpler than you think - Short sightedness.

There’s no conspiracy or hidden agenda for things to come. There’s no effort to control the media for political gain or anything as sinister as the Gestapo tactics everyone thinks it to be

...nothing.

It’s just the plain simple inability to govern a nation, and seeing the bigger picture.

By introducing the Info Bill, the ANC wants to cover their tracks on large scale corruption, such as the Arms Deal and quite possibly E-Tolling.

By classifying information on these transactions to ‘top secret’, no-one with a finger in the pie can be held accountable...at least not during their lifetimes anyway, when it can be de-classified.

The shocking part is that they are willing to trade the soul of South Africa, its hard fought freedom, for a couple of years silence on their greedy mistakes, and they are willing to expose this country to the single largest threat to national security and stability to achieve this, as the factional fighting the ANC is experiencing now, may well spill into the streets.

Knowing this... is there anyone out there that actually thinks this party is competent, fit and proper to be trusted with governing this nation? By gambling with its stability?

If there’s one mistake the ANC made, it was to push E-Tolls, and its eventual demise, during the same time the Info Bill is hot news.

I find it... interesting... to say the least that the National Council of Provinces is buying time with it.

Could it possibly be to avoid the same type of public hype SANRAL had to endure, especially at a time where people feel empowered by their legal victory?

One can but only speculate...

Whatever the future of the Info Bill, you can bet the ANC will be better prepared for this one, and the fight will require far more, than just an interim order and some demonstrations. One wishes that COSATU would give the same amount of energy to counter the Info Bill, than it did with E-Tolls.

Either way, this is a fight we cannot stand to lose, simply because it’s about much more than a free press... it’s about our collective freedom, and ultimate survival as a nation.

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