While this isn’t as egregious a case as the News24 “news” (rather than opinion, or whatever) article on lockdown protests in Muizenberg was, the problems with Daily Maverick‘s piece on a new court challenge regarding right-to-die legislation extend beyond the clickbait headline, and merit brief comment. (As a disclaimer, I contributed columns to Daily Maverick between 2009 and 2013.)
Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa’s President) reinstated a ban on the sale of alcohol at both restaurants and retail outlets on December 28 2020, and that ban is still in place today, with an end-date to be determined by the whims of the National Coronavirus Command Council.
Many, many years ago, I wrote something about how Barry Ronge was talking nonsense when he said that we can’t take Breyten Breytenbach calling South Africa a “kleptocracy” seriously when he (BB) doesn’t even live in South Africa.
Today, Helen Zille is talking the same nonsense, in response to a Justice Malala column (probably paywalled) that includes this paragraph:
South Africa will move to level 3 of our Coronavirus lockdown on June 1. More economic activity will be permitted, we can exercise anytime (within the curfew hours), buy alcohol, and attend religious services (in groups of 50 or fewer). We won’t be able to buy tobacco, even though the state’s case for this restriction is threadbare.
But even as the gradual resumption of something resembling normal life picks up pace, there sometimes seems little room for optimism. There are widespread riots in the USA after more black citizens were killed by police, and here at home, Collins Khoza is one of many who have been killed by overly zealous members of the police and army while enforcing their interpretation of lockdown.
Last week, I suggested on Twitter that Capetonians might want to comment on the City’s “management of public spaces” by-law amendments before the deadline of May 17, but didn’t say why, hoping that people would read the amendments and decide for themselves.
But in case it’s useful, here is a short summary of my concerns. You are free to copy and paste them into your responses if you choose, or to submit a version of them under your own name.
Today is day 10 of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, which has been implemented with a resolve rarely seen in our country, with the military deployed to assist the police in keeping people in their homes. Unfortunately, neither they – nor the police – are (in general) accustomed to much besides being authoritarian. They certainly don’t have a history of “shower[ing] our people with guidance [and] leadership”, as President Ramaphosa asked of them when they were sent into the streets.
Eusebius McKaiser (host of a show on Radio 702) and I were meant to be part of a public discussion at WiSER (based at Wits University) on COVID-19 and its social implications later this week. The conversation was in the end postponed – not because of health risks (although that is now an utterly sensible reason for postponing) – but because some people thought that a philosophical conversation was inappropriate, and that WiSER should include epidemiologists, virologists and the like on any panel related to this coronavirus.
Friday December 6 is your deadline to indicate your support for repealing Section 6 of the Civil Union Act (via the Civil Union Amendment Bill), and you can do so by writing to Mr Zolani Rento (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mr G Dixon (email@example.com). I’ve offered some reasons to support the repeal before, and repeat the invitation made in that post to copy and paste whatever you like from it in your submission.
We pick the narratives that we prefer. And if we find a guru, thought-leader or intellectual who speaks to our values and dreams, confirmation bias means we celebrate their successes, and forgive them their failures. In reality, though, they’re going to be the same mixed-bag as the rest of us, albeit often operating at a higher level of complexity and consequence than we are.
Before we talk about what the law says, we should talk and think about what sort of society we hope for the law to help create. The law is always going to be an imperfect tool for managing millions of often selfish, confused, partisan, and otherwise compromised humans.
So when talking about liberal values such as free speech, it is legitimate to ask whether past, current or future formulations of laws governing the value in question do the job optimally, rather than to simply appeal to them as the end-points of an argument.