Governments all over the world tell their citizens that arcana imperii or state secrets, is imperative for the proper functioning of the state.
While democratic governments normally consult and make arguments that seem convincing before implementing legislation dealing with state secrets, despotic governments tend to enforce made-up laws as they see fit. However, the South African government seems to be in between at the moment with its intention to steamroll a particularly nasty piece of legislation known as the Protection of Information Bill (POIB).
Before we examine POIB any further, it’s prudent to ask what are state secrets and why governments think that they are so necessary?
Herfried Münkler, Professor of Political Theory in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Humboldt University of Berlin has this to say about state secrets:
The disclosure of state secrets means a loss of strategic capability, which is undoubtedly bound up with the ability to maintain secrecy.
A state that has lost the ability to maintain secrecy has lost its ability for political struggle.
From what Professor Münkler is saying, it seems that state secrets allow governments to double-deal and perpetuate political strife. This allows politicians and politics to proliferate. And so we come closer to the truth about state secrets – it’s all about politicians and their deceitful shenanigans.
People don’t make enemies with people in other country’s. Country’s don’t make enemies with other country’s. Politicians do!
Is it then illogical to conclude that state secrets are there to protect the politicians rather than the citizens? If the politicians had nothing to hide, what is the need for state secrets? What could possibly be of such strategic importance, that it needs to be kept secret? Certainly not science and technology – these need to be shared with the citizens of the world. Unless the politicians don’t want to share technology because of its potential to create weapons for war?
And so citizens become the pawns of the politicians when they are forced to bear these weapons of destruction – so that they can defend more state secrets. A vicious circle tailor-made for the politicians.
Coming back to South Africa. The ANC government are hell-bent on pushing POIB through into law, despite fierce opposition from the Media, many organizations both here and abroad and even from within their own party. Consensus of opinion seems to indicate that it is being done mainly to muzzle the free press and curtail the constant embarrassment that the ANC has to deal with, considering the almost hourly revelations of their dirty, thieving, deceitful and shameless behaviour with respect to the treasury, the ideals of democracy and the constitution.
The ANC government seems to not realise that although the majority of the population, steeped in ignorance, ensures that they stay propped in power, things will not always be this way. Ignorance is curable and it won’t be long before their deceit is understood and realised by that same majority.