Following a relatively secure 2010 World Cup, Wonkie was beginning to get optimistic that controlling crime in South Africa is within the realm of possibility – that South Africa is not destined to become a corrupt Zimbabwe-style banana republic.
The South African government however appears to have quite a different vision. In its latest form, the vision is being expressed through the controversial proposed Media Tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill. Siyabonga Cwele, the State Security Minister, insists that draconian bill will not suppress media freedoms. Common sense however dictates otherwise.
Consider the following purely hypothetical scenario:
1. Joe Schmoe in the government successfully allocates a few million rands in public funds in order to fund a security initiative. Actually it is his niece’s surprise birthday party and he invited Chelsea Clinton (she may actually be attending and it is probably best to ‘prepare’ well)
2. Joe gets all the documentation for this super-expensive high security initiative classified as a matter of national security. It makes sense after all, if there was a leak it really wouldn’t be much of a surprise birthday party right?
3. Chelsea Clinton can’t come and Joe is so disappointed. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s such a hassle to do the paperwork to return the allocated funds so Joe decides to keep it all in his personal account… for safe-keeping. Besides his fixed deposit interest rate is quite high so when he does return the money it would probably provide a good return for the South Africa government anyway.
4. A Sunday Times journalist discovers this through inside sources and boldly attempts to expose the dodgy deal in headline news.
Now in civilised countries, the headline would read something like Corrupt government official nailed for stealing millions. Under the proposed Protection of Information Bill in South Africa, however the headline would read Journalist jailed indefinitely for exposing state secrets.
Go figure why so many senior South African government officials are supporting this secrecy legislation. If you cannot figure it out, collect a free banana from your local Checkers.