A few years ago, I went to the Apartheid Museum. It was mortifying, horrific, shocking and wonderful. All at once. But the exhibition that struck me - and has stuck with me the most - was the archive footage of international news broadcasts. This is what the outside world was seeing, while we - the white folk in South Africa - were obliviously listening to the news Riaan Cruywagen was presenting, on a need-to-know basis. And there was a lot that the government felt we didn't need to know. Watching those news broadcasts, aired at the time in Europe and America, I could finally understand (at least to some degree) why foreigners have on occasion looked at me with such disgusted interest when they learn that I grew up in Apartheid.
Disgusted interest. I think that describes it quite well. "You're white. And South African. You're a racist bigot. What was it like?"
I'm not saying that whiteys had absolutely no idea of what was happening. They knew something was up, but it was certainly a sheltered knowledge. The fact that there were violent uprisings out 'there' was sometimes reported on TV, but it was shown as ANC and IFP, political - dare we say, tribal - clashes.... not a rebellion fighting the oppressive regime. The extent, the circumstances, the socio-political causes were simply not comprehended by most of the lighter bretheren. As a kid, I knew something was happening because we had to practice "bomb drills" in case the violence actually did get to our school in sheltered suburbia. Although, to this day, I still do not understand what sitting under your desk, holding your hands over your ears and chanting "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." will do in the case of a mob or bomb attack.
These days we know about the mechanisms of Apartheid, the press censorship, the media who succumbed or didn't ... about journalists who obstinately and blatantly argued that we were not getting the full story in our own country, printing "blanked out" sentences in their own publications to try to show that information was being withheld. About people who fought and died for their cause.
Back then, they didn't have the Internet. But you can be sure, if they did, they would've used it. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia have all become examples of news disseminating media globally. These days every news website has an opinion section. Almost every story can be commented and further opined upon. And boy, there are a lot of opinions out there. The fact that we can see all these postulations, right or wrong, means that we have freedom of speech and similarly freedom of press. In case you were wondering, that's a good thing.
Reporters Without Borders, a transnational organisation that monitors press freedom internationally, indicates that more than one third of the world's population currently live in countries that do not allow press freedom. The good news is that at this stage, South Africa is not one of those countries. But we were.
He Who Shall Not Be Named (because people are already paying too much attention) is trying to bring us back to those days. Although, to be honest, I think that statement allows him too much precognitive credit. I don't truly think that he is actively trying to destroy press freedom in South Africa. I think he is just too stupid to realise the repercussions of what he is inciting with his every breath into a mic. He has no education, he has not one modicum of common sense (as demonstrated on a daily basis in the public domain), but unfortunately he has become an over-sized mouth piece to a similarly uneducated demographic of our population.
He is a representative of the ANC, who in turn represent the proud nation that Nelson Mandela amalgamated with so much love and dedication... but his actions represent nothing less than a return to atrocities committed during Apartheid... which is the polar opposite to what Madiba envisaged. The thought makes me angry.
This is me taking my stand against that day returning.
You can find out more about the inspiration behind this post, here.
Just a few others who've also spoken out