1 February 2012
Unemployed People's Movement
Statement to the National Council of Provinces Hearing on the Secrecy Bill 2 February 2012 Port Elizabeth
As the Unemployed People's Movement we reject all provisions in this bill which will hinder the free flow of information.
We are clear that this bill will compromise our democracy in important ways. Democracy means the free and open participation of all people in the life of the country. Any attempt to privatise access to information or to intimidate people from sharing information is inherently anti-democratic.
We have asked ourselves why this Bill has come at this point. There is no evidence that the state is under threat from foreign intelligence agencies. The claims that are often made about the rebellion of the poor, and the poor people's movements that have emerged from this rebellion, being controlled by foreign governments are baseless. People are rebelling because they have no jobs, no houses and no future. People are rebelling because they have been lied to and betrayed.
In our view the real reason why the Bill has come at this point is because (1) the government has realised that popular protest will continue to develop and (2) the media will continue to expose the rampant corruption that began with the arms deal and has most recently resulted in the wholesale plunder of Limpopo. The government is moving to protect itself against dissent and debate by militarising the police, repressing poor people's movements and clamping down on media freedom and the free flow of information.
We all know that almost twenty years in to democracy it is clear that the current version of democracy has failed most of the people. But the solution to this is to deepen democracy rather than to weaken it.
Instead of censoring and intimidating the media that currently exists we need to diversify the media and create proper support for independent and diverse community controlled media.
Instead of allowing officials to keep important matters secret we need legislation to enhance openness.
Instead of allowing party politics to become corrupted and dominated by the interests of big money we need to stop private and secret funding for political parties.
Instead of thinking that democracy means voting every few years we need to democratise schools, work places and communities. Democracy must be an everyday part of our lives and not something that only happens at elections.
The Secrecy Bill, like the proposed media tribunal, like the militarising of policing and like the politicisation of the intelligence agencies is a serious threat to our democracy. We wish to place on record our complete rejection of the bill.
We also wish to note that while the ANC has been elected to power its violent intolerance towards popular dissent has been well documented. The repression of movements like Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Landless People's Movement by the ANC has been well documented. The gross misuse of the criminal justice system to repress these movements has also been noted. We too have suffered repression including violence at the hands of the police and the misuse of the criminal justice system for political ends. The ANC has been elected but this does not mean that it is a democratic organisation. It cannot claim that because it has been elected everything that it does is therefore democratic. In fact the real measure of whether or not a government is really is democratic is whether or not it gives the people freedom to criticise it and to organise against it.
The government can't forever claim that everything that it does is democratic because there are elections. The arrest of Mzilikazi wa Afrika and the murder of Andries Tatane have taken the hidden culture of repression into the light. When the Western Cape Anti-Eviction was repressed in 2000 and the Landless People's Movement activists were tortured in 2004 it happened in secret. But these days repression is happening in public and on TV. The truth is now there for everyone to see.The days when some people could be blind to state repression have passed.
We do not accept the argument that is being made which states that because other countries, like the USA, have repressive laws we to should have these laws. Since when was the USA, the most violent and ruthless imperialist power in the world today, the standard for our democracy? The USA has attacked democratic movements and governments around the world for years and years. Since when did we allow oppressors to set the standard for what counts as democracy? This argument is disgraceful.
We call on the members of the National Council of Provinces to break ranks with their party bosses and to, instead, declare their solidarity with the people of South Africa and to reject this bill in its entirety.
If this bill is passed we will support mass action against it and in support of democracy as well as an appeal to the Constitutional Court to have it declared unconstitutional.
Pammy Isaac 084 781 5832
Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Ben Mafani 078 087 5177