The following speech was given by DA Abroad President and former South African MP, Nigel Bruce, at the London Protest against the Protection of State Information Bill that was held outside South Africa House, Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 3 December 2011.
This secrecy bill is certainly meant to protect. But it will protect the wrong people.
It will protect those who walked away with thousands of millions of rands of ill-gotten bribes from the corrupt arms deal.
It will protect the shady beneficiaries of the arms trade and their Black Economic Empowerment accomplices.
It will protect companies like Hitachi who in return for government contracts are giving funds to ANC funding companies.
It will protect the crooks of the future. As the second arms deal investigation nears, there has been a rush to get this secrecy bill on to the statute books.
It was man-handled through parliament in a way that showed contempt for due process, negotiation and compromise You ask why? The answer is easy. Investigators in Europe and America know exactly to whom bribes were paid in Africa. And it is becoming more difficult to keep this information quiet.
Ask Mac Maharaj. He is trying as we speak to use the law to avoid explaining payments to his wife from suppliers to his former ministry which he says are legal. He is slipping and sliding. The new secrecy law is just the thing he needs.
The courageous Dr Richard Young used the access to information laws to extract exactly how arms deal contracts were handled. This came from documents which the Auditor General fought hard to keep secret. As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts I have read them – as well as confidential cabinet minutes on the arms deal.
There really doesn’t need to be a new probe. There needs to be prosecutions. The evidence is there. It is simply being ignored.
Zuma is a damp squib president. He knows he needs to do something. He faces corruption oozing out everywhere. So another arms probe was probably inevitable. And who knows this time it might cut the mustard. Ministers out of office are invariably less dexterious in their own defence.
The memory of the late defence minister Joe Modisa is going to be among the first sullied by the truth – as well as others who held high office at that time and should have been seen to be taking responsibility. Mandela and Mbeki should have questions to answer.
This new probe, if it is not subverted, will expose many businessmen who benefitted from Black Economic Empowerment which carries the virus of corruption — a virus that permeates the government-military-industrial and banking complex.
It subverts the market place, it leads to wrong economic decisions, it misallocates resources, it hampers growth and it perpetuates 40% unemployment (20 years after the ANC came to power) .
That jobless rate would cause revolution in other countries.
The ANC answer is that Africans have always suffered.
There is nothing else that needs to be protected. South Africa has no nuclear capability. Its armed forces can’t use the equipment it has bought. 80% of its soldiers, sailors and airmen are HIV positive and incapable of active service.
ANC chief whip Molopo Mothapo says it must protect SA’s territorial integrity. If that be so he needs a real army not a secrecy law. But he needs an army with ordinance appropriate to the task, not weapons that provide the best commissions for shady dealers, corrupt politicians and blind bankers.
There have been times in South Africa’s history when the most effective opposition has been the press. Without it Helen Suzman would not have survived eight years on her own in the apartheid parliament. It enabled her to fight tooth and nail against apartheid. Without the press from 1994 to 1999 (when the Democratic Party was reduced to only seven parliamentary seats) there would have been no opposing views to the ANC’s blatant racism, economic incompetence and reform inertia. But it took the post apartheid press nearly ten years to get to grips with the arms scandal.
All the post apartheid newspapers (foreign owned or not) supported the ANC and were reluctant to listen to any criticism of it, especially from opposition MPs. Apart from one or two courageous journalists who faced censure, ridicule, intimidation and contempt but who valiantly persisted, the mainstream press was cool on corruption for a long time. It turned a blind eye to incompetence and near ruin in every institution – be it a govt department or public utility –run by ANC operatives.
Now, so much come to light and that it is unable to avoid attacking the blatant contempt the ANC has for honesty, openness and democracy. The newspapers are having a field day. Welcome back to reality brothers. Better late than never.
Of course this secrecy bill will curb press freedom. But it is going inevitably to curb profits, too. It will do serious damage to our democracy. It will make more difficult the role of the press in creating a fair, non-racial and non-sexist society.
Whether or not you spend 25 years in goal is going to be at the behest of politicians—inexperienced and transitory — who have condoned corruption. Zuma may say otherwise. But judge him by what he does (which is never very much) not by what he says.
The first journalist Zuma sends to gaol for 25 years for breaching state security will become an international hero. There might even be a queue shortly of out-of-work intellectuals from the News of the World.
But the corrupt Black economic empowerees and the contaminated politicians will fight hard for the protection this bill gives to them. Fortunes are at stake. Integrity is to them an expendable luxury. But integrity is essential for economic growth. Without it millions will remain unemployed.
They are the ones that are paying for cars like Tony Yengeni’s Mercedes Benz. They are the ones paying for the super rich lives of corrupt ANC oligarchs. That is the plain message given to every South Africa by a bill that is unnecessary, unwanted and undemocratic.