Media Freedom Day

Freedom loving South Africans commemorated Media Freedom Day today, in South Africa. Today marks that fateful day in 1977 when the former Apartheid government shut down newspapers, banned civic organizations and arrested journalists and activists; the same actions being pig-headedly contemplated by the so-called liberation government in power, today.

While it seems that this same government are about to backtrack on the implementation of that disgraceful piece of legislation known as the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) in its current form, there is no absolute guarantee of that. Freedom loving South Africans need to remain ever vigilant and in united opposition to it ever seeing the light of day.

While MAT may indeed wind up as still-born, the implementation of that other sinister piece of legislation known as the Protection of Information Bill (POI) which continues to threaten our basic freedoms, is still very much on the cards. The same opposition we have shown towards MAT, needs to be gathered up again twice and thrice-fold, to defeat those who dare meddle with our freedoms.

We must not allow ourselves to be mislead by government propagandists such as Aziz Pahad, whose call for “a greater variety of voices… to be heard more often in the South African media…,” is nothing short of a smokescreen to give credibility to that new pro-government rag that is about to be published by the Gupta’s, The New Age. Sure we need a greater variety of voices in the media, but not those that toe the ruling party line, or suck up to the politicians, in anticipation of favors.

And perhaps as a sign that Media Freedom Day did prick some consciences, five senior editors of the propaganda rag, The New Age, resigned this afternoon, just  hours ahead of its launch tomorrow. Hopefully these journalists will now join a truly free newspaper publisher.

Let’s all stand firm against any legislation that threatens media freedom.

The New President’s Men

Kgalema Motlanthe has been elected as the new President of South Africa, replacing Thabo Mbeki (until the next general elections at least), and he has chosen his new cabinet:

some old,
some new,
some boring,
some destined to flounder in the stew
Thankfully, Trevor Manuel has been retained as Minister of Finance. He certainly deserves the confidence shown in him. A breath of fresh air has been injected into the cabinet in the form of Barbara Hogan, new Minister of Health and Mohamed Surty, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. However, some tired and boring old stooges remain, viz. Jeff Radebe, Minister of the non-existent Transport system, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, Minister of (mis)Communications, Naledi Pandor, Minister of (un)Educated kids, and Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister of sqeeking voices and interminably dull speeches about matters foreign to international affairs.
But the most frightening appointment in President Motlanthe’s cabinet, is the retention (pun intended) of none other than Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, in the new position of Minister in the Presidency, vacated by Thabo’s rottweiler, Essop Pahad. I know, many people are stunned, flabbergasted even. However, the deed is done, and I reckon we have to look at the bright side: the arrogant Essop is now a fable and Manto will no longer embarrass South Africa by making asinine statements about HIV and AIDS and spreading misinformation about beetroots. Indeed, Manto can look forward to an albeit short career, as Motlanthe’s rottweiler in the Presidency, and spreading rabies instead.

Not All the President’s Men

While I was watching Manchester United battle it out with Chelsea on Sunday, Thabo Mbeki was preparing to throw in the towel. When he announced his resignation as President on Sunday evening, I think it caught many South Africans by surprise; perhaps even those like Julius Malema, (puppet-on-a-string) President of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), one of the chief agitators for Mbeki’s ousting.

And today, nearly the rest of Mbeki’s cabinet followed suite, but not quite. The cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers, including the Deputy President that resigned in quick succession, were clearly his closest supporters and hand-picked henchmen (and women). What has raised my eyebrows however is the resignation of one Minister who said he wouldn’t, and those that chickened out or chose not to resign, not for the moment anyway.

Lets take a closer look at the President’s men who are no more. Of this lot, I’ll be truly happy to see the last of Essop Pahad, Minister in the Presidency; a really rude, unpleasant and arrogant man, described by Andrew Feinstein in his book “After the Party” as the “President’s rottweiler.” Good riddance also to Essop’s brother, Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose irritating voice (always sounded like someone was squeezing his jewels) could drive one quite mad. Also good to see going at last, is Alec Erwin, Public Enterprises Minister whose mismanagement and repeated lies in the Eskom Power debacle did not endure him to the public at large. If Ngconde Balfour and Loretta Jacobus, Minister and Deputy for Correctional Services did not resign, they should have been fired instead, for presiding over leaking jails and general maladministration of prison services. Not too much good could be said for the rest of the ship-jumpers; only Finance Minister Trevor Manuel stands out for the good work put into his Ministry which resulted in good economic growth and stability over a sustained period of time.

Back to what bothers me the most. The one person who has not resigned, but should have been canned a long time ago for gross incompetence is none other than the Minister of Alternative Medicine, the beetroot-loving, alcohol-soaked, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Why this pathetic disgrace to the country still clings onto her position as a Minister after being repeatedly discredited, is a mystery. Could only be the perks of the job, one of which probably entitles her to being placed first on the liver transplant recipient list.