Broken promises put freedom at risk
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.