15 August, 2010
There has been anger, consternation and disappointment over the ANC's two-pronged move to gag the media through a tribunal and a "protection of information" bill.
I am surprised there has been so much surprise. These attempts to gag the press have nothing to do with the need for accuracy on the part of journalists, or protecting the dignity of South Africans, as claimed by ANC spokesmen.
They have, however, everything to do with the fact that the ANC right now has the weakest, greediest, most corrupt and compromised leadership since its birth 98 years ago. These so-called leaders want to shut down the medium that exposes their corruption, looting and hypocrisy.
In Polokwane, the ANC had a choice between a high road and a low road. It could, in thumping Thabo Mbeki's ambitions for a third term, have elected a leader more talented and better equipped to deliver on the promise of a free, united, non-racial and democratic South Africa.
But, as happens in all kangaroo courts and mob slayings, in its rush to destroy Mbeki the ANC chose a man whose most marked traits were a talent for populist rhetoric and an inability to lead effectively. The ANC went for the lesser man, someone whose moral, intellectual and leadership skills remain a mystery to the nation.
The ANC did not stop there. Many in its current leadership know nothing but the world of the jackboot and violence: securocrats dominate the top echelons of the party. These are not leaders who enjoy the light shone by a free press. They prefer the dark; they like secrets and the cover-ups that allow corruption to flourish.
A man who sleeps with his friends' children - one of them with mental problems and HIV-positive - cannot tolerate a free press that keeps putting the spotlight on the reprehensible behaviour of elected representatives.
Such a man cannot understand or tolerate the watchdog role of the press, hence President Jacob Zuma's utterance this week: "The constitution talks about the privacy of people. At times, things that are private are not made private in the manner in which the reportings are done."
It is in this context that one must understand the virulence of the ANC and the president on this matter. Zuma would much rather have had the country be silent while he spoke with a forked tongue on moral regeneration (a programme of which he was a government leader), safe sex (an issue on which he was supposedly a government leader) and the dangers of having multiple concurrent relationships without using protection.
This is not an elected leader who wants to be examined. The continued spotlight on him, every day and every hour, ensures that he will be found wanting. So we should not be surprised that he does not like the light. He likes things to remain "private" despite the fact that he occupies a public office.
The ANC leadership is aware that the rot has spread through the whole organisation.
The party's discussion documents for its national general council meeting paint such a damning picture that it is amazing that an organisation so committed to secrecy should have made them public.
But debate is one thing and action is another. This is an ANC that is ready to acknowledge in public that corruption is destroying it - but, as evidence mounts that all is not right with the business dealings of its senior leader and Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda (the Public Protector has called for an investigation of the man) - the party stands frozen.
This is the party that wants the press to stop pointing out these wrongs. Nyanda himself wants a media tribunal. Of course he would. The press is the only entity that has dared to expose his extravagant lifestyle at taxpayers' expense: buying hugely expensive cars, living it up on champagne and sleeping at five-star hotels. All this in a country where millions go hungry every day.
We should not be surprised. When Zwelinzima Vavi pointed out that Zuma was dragging his heels on Nyanda and allegations of corruption against another minister, the ANC decided to haul Vavi before a disciplinary hearing.
We should not be surprised. Blade Nzimande, a communist leader who disgustingly chose to buy himself a car worth more than a million rands, wants a media tribunal. This is understandable. His hypocrisy in buying himself the car while teachers, doctors and nurses earn a pittance is exposed by the press. He wants these things to be "private".
We should not be surprised.
This is what the ANC is today: a rotten, greedy, corrupt and compromised leadership which wants to muzzle the media to hide its looting of the country.