Categories
Politics

Bloggers for a free press (#SpeakZA)

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President. We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

 

Categories
Politics

Blogs for free press

Bloggers For a Free Press

I’m sure you’re aware by now of the slander campaign launched by the ANC Youth League’s spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu against journalists they perceive to be against the Youth League. This campaign is especially directed against City Press journalist Dumisani Lubisi. You’ll remember that he was instrumental in exposing Julius Malema’s interests in various companies.

The move taken by the ANCYL is disturbing, especially their response to the letter written by 19 of the country’s most influential political journalists, asking the ANC to distance itself from the actions of the Youth League and Floyd Shivambu, where they basically told these journalists to sod off. More than that, Shivambu then threatened the journalists who refused to run his slanderous story.

This is a definite step towards dictatorial rule. I for one, am not willing to sit idly by as people in our ruling party flagrantly infringe on media freedom and other Constitutional rights.
I’ve invited a number of South African bloggers to publish a message to the ANC and the Youth League on Wednesday, condemning the actions of Shivambu and calling on them to distance themselves from such practices. We also reminds the ANC of the vital role played by the the press in the liberation struggle.

If you’re a South African blogger and are interested in joining, then drop me an email at [email protected] Alternately, you can reach me on Twitter (@ComradeSipho). I’ll fill you in with
further details and put you on the SpeakZA mailing list.

If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #SpeakZA. Let’s get the word out there.
Sipho Hlongwane

Categories
Daily Maverick Morality Politics

On JZ’s call for a national dialogue on “our moral code”

Originally published in The Daily Maverick.

Many South Africans would support the recent call by President Jacob Zuma for a national dialogue on our moral code. While quips about foxes guarding henhouses may be the first thing to come to mind, two serious and separate issues are raised by this call: the desirability of such a dialogue, and the practical issue of who should take part.

On the first issue, perhaps we should start by noting that the perceived moral failings of some influential South Africans and the public response to these have a feature in common, namely a tendency to pluck a ready-made moral viewpoint off a shelf and then present that as either defence or accusation. Neither of these responses demonstrates commitment to moral reasoning or sensitivity to the fact that some issues cannot be resolved by appeal to dogma. They are, nevertheless, often successful in that new South Africans have been bred to be tolerant of difference and reluctant to criticise things they may not understand.

Categories
External World Politics

Addicted to victimhood

Being married to someone who is obsessed with food has its upsides, in that the cooking of regular and delicious meals is something the Doctor enjoys doing (or so she claims, after years of doing so). I can apparently cook too, but this is a hypothesis that I’d rather not subject to much testing, in that I fear the loss of a potentially undeserved reputation. But it has its downsides too, in that her time spent thinking about food, and reading in the discipline of “Food Studies”, involves having to listen to and read an awful amount of utter tosh. Being a naturally inquisitive sort of fellow, I sometimes get caught in the crossfire, which led to us recently having a conversation about the evils of high-fructose corn syrup, which is apparently in everything.

Categories
Politics

More on Maxwele and freedom of speech

A follow-up article on the Chumani Maxwele incident, and the implications it has for free speech in South Africa, appeared in the Durban Mercury (22/02/10) and the Cape Times (23/02/10). My original text can be found here.

Categories
Morality Politics

Giving Jacob Zuma the finger

February is turning out to be a rather uncomfortable month for South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma. First we had Babygate, and now it appears that some of his goons have taken to abusing and arresting those whom they believe to not be showing sufficient respect to the Father of the Nation (or at least, a growing proportion of it).

Categories
Morality Politics Religion

Forgive him if you like, but Jacob Zuma should resign

South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, has recently provided an effective negative proof of the value added by a competent press office. In an embarrassing attempt to manage an embarrassing situation, the South African public have received:

  1. A statement dated February 3, in which JZ confirms his “love-child”, while berating us for caring about his private affairs.

  2. The leaking of some “evidence” on the same day which suggests that JZ and Sonono Khoza are in fact married, and that the existence of the most recent child does therefore not suggest JZ was cheating on his 37 other wives.

  3. A further statement/apology dated February 6, in which someone finally cottons on to the fact that the man in question was elected without the moral currency or credibility which might otherwise allow us to respect his wishes in this matter, and that an apology might therefore be necessary.

  4. Communication from god, reminding us that “faith dictated that he [JZ] be absolved“, and suggesting that we should “leave this episode behind us, regrettable as it is, and move on as a nation”.

God spoke through Ray McCauley’s National Interfaith Leadership Council (NILC), as she has tended to do since they beat out her previous spokespersons, the South African Council of Churches, in what must have been a rather difficult contest to arbitrate. I’ve discussed the NILC previously, and argued against the popular notion that religious groups like the NILC have any special claim to moral knowledge.

But this incident, and this President, is about more than simple moral issues. It’s also not simply about the convoluted definitions of “culture” we can come up with in order to justify doing whatever the hell we want. Normally, I’m a strong supporter of the idea that I don’t want or need my political leaders to be exemplars of moral virtue – their job is to offer political leadership, and I don’t really care what they do in their private lives.

However, cases like these do intrude into the public consciousness, and – when placed alongside rape trials, dodgy arms-deal allegations, shady friends, financial mismanagement, reckless sexual behaviour in a country blighted by HIV/AIDS and so forth – they do provide a fair amount of evidence of a lack of sound judgement, and a poor awareness of voter interests.

As mentioned earlier, I don’t care who JZ sleeps with, or what drugs he takes, or anything else to do with his real or imagined private life. I do care that political leaders think carefully about what they do, and that they have the intellectual capacity to realise the implications that their choices might have. JZ clearly lacks one or both of these abilities.

So, forgive him if you like. Pray about it if you think that will help, or eat a crystal (I think that’s how it’s supposed to work?). But forgiveness does not mean we should forget about competence – and in this case, have we not already forgiven enough incompetence?

Categories
Morality Politics Religion

Killing gays may not be helpful

As reported in a previous post, Uganda is currently considering a bill that would impose the death penalty or life sentences on homosexuals. Furthermore, the proposed bill criminalises those who do not report a suspected gay person within 24 hours, and will most likely also have the effect of dissuading health care professionals in Uganda from assisting anyone who is gay – as well as dissuading gay people from seeking treatment, seeing as outing yourself as gay could land you in jail.  It’s worth reading this story on NPR to see the extent to which American Evangelical Christians are prepared to foment hatred and prejudice in order to buttress their support bases in the 3rd World – after all, surely all those folk in Africa will one day be able to afford to buy their sermons on DVD?

Categories
Politics Religion

Skeptical of the skeptics

Groucho Marx (borrowing from Freud, as Woody Allen reminded us in Annie Hall) famously said “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member” – and while the point of the joke is most likely self-deprecation, it also reminds us that we sometimes need to be skeptical about the clubs we join – and the clubs we form.

Last night, Skeptics in the Pub (Cape Town) had their second meeting. I missed the first one while traveling, so was keen to meet up with the group and see what I’d missed out on in December. It turned out to be an interesting evening, although perhaps not for reasons any of the other attendees would appreciate hearing about, and made me wonder more than once whether it was the sort of gathering you could (perhaps should) go to once in your life, but never again – because each iteration of these gatherings feels just like the previous one. Every so often, a person, or a person and a few friends, decide that they should form some society or other, recruit people to their cause, and go out and change the world (or manageable little bits of it, at least).

Categories
External World General Politics

Eastwood does Oprah

A couple of nights ago, the Doctor and I watched a feature-length episode of Oprah directed by Clint Eastwood, titled Invictus. It was somewhat like going to a church service (at least as far as I can recall) where everyone is hopped-up on Ecstasy while trying to channel the spirit of the Dalai Lama – such was the overwhelming schmaltziness of this account of how Mandela saved South Africa with an oval ball. Parts of it were good – here in South Africa, much chattering occurs around the authenticity of accents when movies feature local characters, and both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon did a good job in this regard. Also, some of the action scenes (rugby scrums and so forth) were appropriately animalistic (in general, though, the rugby scenes were rather devoid of tension or spectacle). But in what appears to be a concerted effort to win a couple of Oscars, Eastwood lays on the cheese to such an extent that at one point the Doctor remarked “this is more than cheesy – it’s an entire fondue!”.