On 22 November 2011, I attended a funeral for freedom of speech in South Africa. Myself along with about three to five hundred mourners stood outside Cape Town’s parliament, where a bill that effectively allows government to sensor the media was passed. We were all dressed in black. We sang songs from the struggle against apartheid. We listened to speeches. Some of us danced the same dances that shook the earth in the liberation movement. We all hoped to sway the ministers inside parliament from signing the Protection of Information Bill. Nonetheless, the bill was passed and freedom of speech in South Africa was lowered into an early grave. It was only 16 years old.
One of the mourners in his eulogy said the bill was the first step in dismantling democracy. He spoke the truth but only half of it. The bill could also, and I pray I am wrong, be the first step in constructing a dictatorship. Anybody who knows history knows that the first step in establishing a dictatorship or an oppressive government is to suppress freedom of speech. The Protection of Information Bill is essentially a mask behind which the government, already known for its corruption, can do what it pleases with being seen.
To quote Dr Phil: “Those who have nothing to hide hide nothing”. The fact that this bill has been passed proves that the current government of South Africa has something to hide and that it intends hide what it wants to do in the future. With this bill much that was achieved in the struggle against Apartheid has been reversed. But this is not the end. This is the dawn of a new struggle, against a new oppressor. That’s right: oppressor. Only an oppressor would advocate a bill to oppress freedom of speech. Only an oppressor’s minions would let such a bill come to pass. In doing so they have shown themselves for what they are. They may have their mask for now. But one day the mask will fall and they will have to face us and face what they have done.