Bro­ken prom­ises put free­dom at risk

CityPress - - Business - Terry Bell busi­ness@city­press.co.za

We have al­ready set foot on what looks like a slip­pery slope to­wards the de­struc­tion of me­dia in­de­pen­dence and free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“Brown en­ve­lope” pay­ments by politi­cians to jour­nal­ists for favourable re­ports and the abuse of me­dia out­lets by pro­pa­gan­dists pos­ing as jour­nal­ists to pro­mote fake im­ages of self-pro­claimed “busi­ness lead­ers” have kept South Africa on the brink of that slope for years.

The death of SABC jour­nal­ist Suna Venter, the attempted in­tim­i­da­tion of ed­i­tor Peter Bruce and threats lev­elled at other jour­nal­ists by the tiny, po­lit­i­cally il­lit­er­ate thugs of Black First Land First (BLF) have taken us on to the slope.

And this has been en­cour­aged by state­ments em­a­nat­ing from within an in­creas­ingly be­lea­guered ANC.

By in ef­fect la­belling any protest against gov­ern­ment as part of an “im­pe­ri­al­ist” con­spir­acy to bring about “regime change”, the ANC, at its pol­icy con­fer­ence this week, has en­cour­aged para­noia – the same para­noia that led to of­ten hor­ren­dous abuses in ex­ile.

In the 1960s and, much more so, in the 1980s, blindly loy­al­ist thugs, al­most cer­tainly ac­com­pa­nied by in­fil­tra­tors work­ing for the apartheid state, ar­rested, abused, tor­tured and ex­e­cuted many who dared to chal­lenge the poli­cies of the lead­ers.

What was de­manded by the lead­er­ship then – and is de­manded now – was un­ques­tion­ing unity and dis­ci­pline. But the unity was and is un­prin­ci­pled. And the dis­ci­pline amounts merely to toe­ing what­ever line is laid down by the lead­er­ship.

In the par­lia­men­tary democ­racy of to­day, it is no longer pos­si­ble to carry out such abuses with rel­a­tive im­punity and to sweep knowl­edge of them, along with the graves of the ex­e­cuted, into obliv­ion.

But it is still pos­si­ble to call for unity as a pri­or­ity, and to de­mand that any who dare ques­tion this be sub­ject to se­vere sanc­tion and be seen as impimpis or worse.

This at­ti­tude is mir­rored in the fragments that have bro­ken from the ANC, whether it be the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers or the more in­tel­lec­tu­ally cretinous BLF.

Not to be out­flanked, the ANC now com­petes in terms of para­noia and dis­tor­tions of con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples.

To give them their due, Zwelinz­ima Vavi and the lead­er­ship of the re­cently es­tab­lished SA Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions have iden­ti­fied and con­demned the ap­proach de­cided upon at the ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence.

“It is the same at­ti­tude that led to the abuses in ex­ile,” Vavi said this week.

By blam­ing “ex­ter­nal forces”, the ANC lead­er­ship at­tempts to de­flect anger from its own cor­rup­tion and ineptitude. This amounts to “a shame­ful re­turn to para­noia and witch-hunts”, he added.

There has been be­trayal, but, as many union­ists see it, it is the gov­ern­ing party that is guilty be­cause it is de­stroy­ing the hope of the lauded “rain­bow na­tion” tran­si­tion.

This hope was spelt out in 1992 by Nel­son Man­dela when, in a widely pub­li­cised in­ter­view with me, he noted that, given the GDP of South Africa, “we can af­ford to feed, house, clothe and pro­vide health­care for all our cit­i­zens”.

It was a promise that was bro­ken and is the un­der­ly­ing rea­son for the anger, un­rest and in­sta­bil­ity that is now blamed on “West­ern pow­ers”, im­pe­ri­al­ism and mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

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