The Protection of Information Bill will be passed

Jun 07, 11 The Protection of Information Bill will be passed

Posted by in Politics

For most middle class folks, the Protection of Information Bill is yet another checkpoint on the list verifying a government becoming increasingly paranoid of exposing its own systemic rot. Alarming, but inexorable. The details are not overly well-reported, because the nitty gritty implications of the bill make for poor reading, however alarming they might be. Much like the arms deal, the Zuma trial, and any number of other South African political fiascos, we skim the surface and cluck our tongues disapprovingly. And that is the depressing reality; the sense that the bill will become law, despite what popular opinion would desire. The ANC is hell-bent on ramming through a paper that is ill-conceived regardless of what is better for the country, and the bitter reality is that the citizens of this country have immense support, even now, for a president and a party who would do this. Perhaps the right2know campaign will be successful in lobbying against the bill, and it will be shelved, much like the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill, until the lobbyists get weary of playing moral sentinel and they can usher it through the halls of government before anyone notices. This is a possibility, but it will not dissuade the ANC from ultimately bringing this god-awful piece of legislation into being. From a casual observer’s perspective, to which membership I shamefully belong, the media have not done a great job of telling us why this is such a bad bill. Simply repeating over and over that the hiding of state secrets is bad because, well, it hides state secrets, is just not enough. Certainly editorials have expounded upon the wheres and whos and whys, but it is by no means the common practice of the South African public sphere, and as a consequence there is no coherent, intelligent reponse to an otherwise-idiotic bill aside from the instinctive feeling that it is just horribly rotten. The state, any state, keeps certain information confidential, often for good reason, and a government can well use...

read more

Who is your local councillor?

May 27, 11 Who is your local councillor?

Posted by in Politics

It seems most South African do not know. This was one of the concerns of the local government elections. There was public discontent at the selection of candidates. Protests in the North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State took place in the months leading up to the May 18 election with appalling results. Voters in Ermelo decided to boycott the elections in protest. Conflict arose as independent candidates were deemed unfit to run by the IEC, protestors took this to be a malicious attempt for the larger parties to retain power. There is no confirmation of this however. The more horrifying result was the death of the protestor Andries Tatane in Ficksburg at the hands of the police. The issue for many South Africans is that the first time they had ever set eyes ward councilors or mayors was on a poster or at a political rally running up to the elections.  There are two ways to look at this; the apathy of the South African public needs to change, a keener interest in the country’s politics should be taken. On the other hand, the very same public blames their apathy on the lack of delivery by the government. So the question begs who or what have people voted for? Representation is a critical issue in the South African political landscape. Racial, cultural and socio-economic representation has played a major role in who has won the elections over the last 17 years. Even though the ruling party has been largely responsible for the municipalities including some successes and disappointments, analysts did not expect to see voters voting according to their happiness or unhappiness with the ruling party. There have been many complaints, the poor want housing, the more affluent want security and better roads. The result: a largely disappointed public. The results of the elections reflect some accuracy in the political analysts’ conclusions. The ANC did win majority with 63.65 % of the overall votes. What is interesting however is that the ruling party...

read more

Why a Spoiled Vote was an ANC Vote

May 18, 11 Why a Spoiled Vote was an ANC Vote

Posted by in Politics

Judging from some of the feedback on Twitter and Facebook from many of my intellectual friends, spoiling your ballot as an act of protest against the parties that you cannot find any reasonable accord with has become the new political activism du-jour. I had thought that the reasons for not doing so were obvious enough, but as the reassuring back-slaps of the spoilers grow in number, it seems pertinent to point out what it was that the lot of you actually did in the booth today. As an interesting mathematical principle, spoiling your ballot really did little except give a sliver of an edge to whoever had the majority, by fractionally reducing the number of votes in the pool (and thereby giving the majority vote-winner a larger share of said pool). Consider this thought experiment as a way of illustrating the point: In a fictitious country of 100 people, 66 of which vote party A and 33 of which vote party B, your non-vote will have the effect of reducing the pool fractionally to a poll of 99 votes – thereby giving a 2/3 majority to party A which they did not previously have. (Assuming, cheekily, that 2/3 of the polled votes matter in this fictitious country) This happens because the spoiled vote meant that – for the purposes of polling – we lived in a 99 person country, instead of a 100 person country, making each unspoiled vote cast just a little more powerful) This is true always of not turning up to vote. It’s also true of spoiling your ballot in polls which (like ours, unless I am seriously mistaken? Anyone correct me?) spoiled ballots are not counted as a separate total in the counting, to potentially result in null parliamentary seats. Other systems (which ours is not) that allow you to tick a ‘I hate you all’ box, where these ballots are totaled as a vote of apathy and can draw away from the percentage takes of other parties, would be a valid workaround...

read more

Local Elections: beyond the ballot

May 17, 11 Local Elections: beyond the ballot

Posted by in Politics

Local government elections. Politics at the lowest level, at its least sexiest, sometimes dirtiest, and yet politics at its most critical. There are over 23 million registered voters, and unlike previous local government elections, it is anticipated that over 50% will vote. Polls open at 7:00AM at 23 000 polling stations across 19 000 voting districts on the 18 May 2011. A day which coincides with the 99th anniversary of struggle icon Walter Sisulu’s birth, an election day with useful facts, but more importantly, an election day which will have an impact on the ANC in the run-up to its 2012 national congress in Mangaung. Five years ago, the previous local government elections were characterised by service delivery protests and a lack of capacity. This hasn’t changed. What has changed in the past five years is that opposition parties have undergone many developments. COPE emerged, and is faltering. The Independent Democrats, once strong in the Cape, have merged with the DA. The DA continues to project itself as the official opposition, and this claim has gravitas with every successive election. The DA is expected to keep Cape Town, and possibly win Port Elizabeth. Time will tell. While it is unlikely that the ANC will lose the local government elections, what is likely is a decrease in their results from the 2006 elections. Much of this also depends on the public response to the tactics that the parties have employed in their electioneering campaigns. Electioneering by most of the parties has been about track records (good and bad), or about moral principles, even about voting to improve the health of struggle icons. In some cases electioneering has been fused with a sense of religious duty, and in some cases it has been an exercise in breaking down stereotypes. We have been witness to an intense electoral campaign where various parties have asked us for our votes come May 18. We have heard promises, accusations, derogatory jibes and racial slurs. We have been entertained, insulted, pandered...

read more

Hawks, Scorpions and Spooks

Apr 12, 11 Hawks, Scorpions and Spooks

Posted by in Politics

What do the former Directorate of Special Operations (‘the Scorpions’) and the National Intelligence Agency (‘NIA’) have in common? This sounds like the precursor to a witty one-liner, but the answer is actually far from amusing: both appear to have been infiltrated by different factions of the pre-Polokwane ANC. Certain ANC cadres appeared most distressed by the Scorpions apparent pandering to the Mbeki re-election agenda, while Zuma’s legal team found themselves conveniently in possession of NIA tapes of phone conversations that seem to substantiate the view that Zuma was being persecuted by the Scorpions. The result was compressed Marxism: an important episode of South African history played out as farcical tragedy / tragic farce. Zuma was not prosecuted, nor was anyone else; the Scorpions were disbanded and replaced by the Hawks; and politics took the turns with which we are all now familiar. Well, almost. Hugh Glenister and five Constitutional Court justices have ensured that this sordid chapter has not (yet) been swiftly signed and sealed. But even if this last-minute-save restores some credibility to institutions that play an important role in South Africa, the damage that has already been done gives pause for thought. Democracy requires a lot if it is to be successful. Free and fair elections obviously play an important role. Equally necessary are the institutions which constitute and enable everyday practices and realisations of democracy: parliament, the IEC, a functioning judiciary, etc. These institutions increase government’s accountability through providing citizens with information and with access to the different levels of government. Institutions generally fulfill these roles better than people do because institutions better approximate perpetual and consistent succession, and they can have broader reach. True, institutions are ultimately established and maintained by people in order to achieve a particular end. So there is no guarantee that institutions will operate successfully (or at all), or achieve what they were initially established for. However, this is a reason to carefully monitor those who are entrusted with running a particular institution, rather than...

read more