South Africa’s slow totalitarian embrace

THE PAST week has been a veritable political circus. In South Africa it appears the issues are more important than the principles at stake – picketers outside the SABC decrying what they termed Hlaudism (so-named after COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng strong-arm tactics which has lead to the banning and resignation of journalists, including Jimi Mathews) and holding up placards stating: Not in my Name. Then two incidents at international level confirming that the country is steadily careening into the icy-grip of totalitarianism.

All incidents demand the same level of mobilisation of voters calling for a return to civil rights and constitutional norms at the public broadcaster. A broad campaign against the emergence of an anti-democratic, unconstitutional, BRICS-lead contingent who myopically insist on slamming our nation’s political gains, whilst imposing policy from above – effectively sacrificing democratic values with the imposition of what can only be termed, Post-Mandela authoritarianism.

Regressive steps more in keeping with the past apartheid regime than the Rainbow Nation – and which by all accounts are contrary to the Bill of Rights whose 20th anniversary this year has been quixotically downplayed by the Zuma administration, in its faltering effort to avoid the inevitable comparison with past ANC presidents and administrations.

News that South Africa had joined China and Russia in voting against a United Nations resolution last week on the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” was thus greeted with dismay by online users.  South Africa it turned out, had tried to remove provisions from a United Nations resolution that would prevent host countries from denying user’s open access, effectively switching off the Internet, alongside other freedom of expression violations.

Are we such a mean-spirited nation? Following the passing of the resolution, freedom of expression organisation Article 19 was moved to express its disappointment. The resolution seeks to protect human rights online such as freedom of expression and privacy, and ensures the release of those imprisoned for posting ‘legitimate’ views on the web. If it isn’t the scourge of online pornography which is driving legislators, it is the new threat posed apparently by online haters. Driving speech underground is far worse than challenging such persons to open debate.

A day later, and our nation was again greeted by another foreign policy fiasco,  this time, South Africa had once again declined to support LGBTI rights at the United Nations. It turned out that a UN Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution to appoint an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa – currently a member of the Human Rights Council – abstained from the vote, in order to stand against Gay Rights, alongside its new political masters –BRICS nations such as Russia and China, both of whom have extremely poor LGBTI protections. Gay Marriage is still illegal in Russia and China. A recent decision by a Chinese court rejected same-sex unions, and the Putin regime has thus been the butt-end of jokes about failing manhood.

Despite national institutions which seemingly guarantee civil liberties, South Africa has a dismal record of siding with oppressive regimes and voting against civil rights at a global level. That the country is once again acting against its own laws, its own people and the people’s constitution at a local level is not all that surprising, given that the SABC also appears to be acting contrary to policy set by the ruling ANC.

A leading party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu lambasted the public broadcaster this week:”The decision has never been consulted with or condoned by the ruling party. This is worrying as it amounts to change in policy of governing party…therefore if you want to change policy and don’t consult us, that shows serious disregard for the governing party,” Mthembu told reporters in Johannesburg. The damage though, has already been done.

SEE: Red flags of authoritarian creep


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