On Tuesday this week, South African MPs approved the “Secrecy Bill”, which will allow state secrets to be safeguarded in the interests of national security. Or, in other words, in the interests of those with power. This is terrible news for a country still trying to recover from the horrors of apartheid censorship. There is no protection within this soon-to-be law for people who want to disclose classified information, believing that such disclosure is more important than any harm caused.In everyday language, as far as I can tell, this law is there to protect those with power, to prevent reporting on corruption or other misdemeanours committed by MPs. It keeps the powerful in power, taking away the freedom of speech from the powerless masses. It is a strange echo of the 1% protests in the Western world – but this time the focus is not money per se, but power itself. The 1% with the power hold onto power, the 99% lose any power they once had.
It was whilst living in South Africa that I became passionate about politics. Living in this newly emerging democracy in the late 1990s, I became fascinated by individual men and women who had been at the forefront of the opposition to apartheid and who were now trying to shape and govern this fledgling-free-nation. I admired the personal sacrifices so many had made, not only the great Nelson Mandela but many of his comrades too. I visited Robben Island and was moved to tears but the suffering experienced in the fight for equality. I was horrified by ongoing racism, inequality and injustice. Yet somehow there was hope in the air, hope that equality and freedom would only increase in the coming years.
And now – this. A draconian law more reminiscent of apartheid than democracy.
Not only have the ANC passed this bill, they are threatening to “discipline” any of their MPs who voted against this law. They are also threatening to punish those who took part in a silent protest whilst Parliament debated the bill on Tuesday. Freedom? Freedom to speak/protest/hold a different opinion? What is going on in this beautiful country so close to my heart?
It is worth spending four minutes watching this slideshow about Tuesday’s events.
Nandos once again came up with a brilliant response…
… I also love the power of this image
Tonight, I can only hope, and pray, that freedom will once again become important in SA – freedom for everyone to speak truth in public without fear