Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
30 March 2012

Democratic Left statement on ANC-SACP pro-Secrecy Bill march

PRESS STATEMENT: RESPONSE TO ANC-SACP-SANCO MARCH IN SUPPORT OF THE SECRECY BILL (THE PROTECTION OF STATE INFORMATION BILL)


The Democratic Left Front (DLF) condemns the ANC, SACP and SANCO for organising a anti-democratic march for today in Cape Town in support of the anti-democratic Secrecy Bill (the Protection of State Information Bill). Despite the fury of the anti-imperialist and revolutionary rhetoric used to justify this march, no democrat of any conviction in South Africa can stand silent whilst the ANC, SACP and SANCO threaten to use their mass power to trample on basic democratic rights to information. This march is the first warning shot in the use of the mass activist base of these organisations as storm-troopers for the authoritarian ruling elite. If ever there was ever a classic example of the extent to which the ANC and the SACP represent authoritarian populism, this march is it. This is typical of Stalinist propaganda that was used by anti-democratic regimes in the past. Today, the ANC and the SACP have created false bogeys of liberals, foreign infiltrators and aggressors, and espionage in order to clamp down on social dissent given their collective failure to transform capitalist South Africa.

The DLF stands unreservedly in full and firm support of the Right to Know Campaign (R2K), COSATU, the SA Human Rights Commission and other progressive organisations in South Africa who remain opposed to the Secrecy Bill. The DLF rejects the spurious allegations made by the ANC, SACP and SANCO in their statement announcing today’s march. The DLF fully endorses the R2K statement issued in response to the ANC-SACP-SANCO statement. The R2K is not dominated by foreign-sponsored NGOs and western-owned media agencies. The R2K is not misleading the public about the class orientation of the media. In fact, the R2K has not only opposed the Secrecy Bill but has also argued and mobilised for truly democratised and diversified media, something which the ANC government has failed to facilitate through the statutory Media Development and Diversity Agency. For all these reasons, the DLF reaffirms its endorsement of the R2K campaign.

The intention of the Secrecy Bill is to stifle the spaces that do exist for access to information and critically informed citizens. The Secrecy Bill is not fundamentally about protection information that threatens the security of ordinary working class South Africans, but about protecting spaces for the ruling elite to continue their plunder of the state. While recent concessions by the ANC have improved the Bill, it will still be extremely difficult, if not impossible to ensure transparency of the most shadowy of all state structures, the security cluster. The grounds for classification of documents, and the definition of national security, still remain overbroad, and will lead to documents that are of considerable public interest and importance being declared secret. The Bill also lacks an adequate public interest/public domain defence in case people come into possession of classified documents, or if they are released into the public domain. This has serious implications for activists, who may come into possession of classified documents exposing abuses of power.

The Secrecy Bill is merely symptoms of a much bigger problem. Jacob Zuma’s ruling elite, which was brought to power by the ANC’s Polokwane conference, is enhancing the coercive capacities of the state, and in the process centralising power in an increasingly unaccountable security cluster. The re-militarisation of the police, which has intensified state violence against protestors, attempts to drive unions out of the military, and the lockdown on transparency and accountability in the Ministry of Defence are also signs of the growing power of Zuma’s securocrats. The DLF fears that unless the growing power of the security cluster is checked, then South Africa may be well on its way to a national security state, which likely to contain growing dissent against service delivery and the capitalist system itself through repression.

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Mazibuko K. Jara – 083 651 0271

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Vishwas Satgar – 082 775 3420

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