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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Black Tuesday

Not being a journalist, I have yet to grasp the full meaning of the Freedom of Information Bill, but from the comments I hear on Radio Algoa, our local radio station, if the Bill is passed into an Act today by parliament, then today will indeed be known in future years as Black Tuesday, for yet another nail will have been hammered into South Africa’s fast-growing coffin. Often misquoted, it was Lord Acton who said in his Historical Essays and Studies that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” I have witnessed close up in what is now Zimbabwe what the misuse of power can do. Sadly it seems that South Africa, a beautiful country that looked as though it had a bright and colourful future under Madiba, is showing all of the signs of going in the same direction.

When my American wife Liz first arrived in this country in 2002, I made a point of telling her some of the signs to keep a lookout for, signs that had reared their ugly head in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s, signs that would eventually trigger our relocation to more acceptable climes. Now those signs are here. Reverse apartheid, corruption, bribes and mis-management in quasi-government agencies and local government, and ministries that have all but ceased to function. I recently had to wait eight months for a computer generated printout of my marriage certificate, and then only after a personally addressed letter to the Director of Home Affairs. This seemingly simple task is something that would have taken less than five minutes in any developed country.

The Freedom of Information Bill, if passed into law, would be a blatant misuse of authority that would prevent South Africa from ever being a truly democratic society.