Entrepreneurs needs to join the most remarkable thing of COSATU and the media cosying up to fight the Protection of Information Bill is that someone has at last realised how important it is to explain to the general population of this country just how bad this legislation will be for each and every one of them.
￼Until now, the media has concentrated almost exclusively on how the POIB will affect the media with the occasional vague reference to the impact it will have on democracy and the ordinary Itumeleng.
The result of which is that the vast majority of South Africans haven’t actually given a toss about the bill because the majority of South Africans only care about what’s in it for them. Just the same as most other citizens around the globe.
Tell the people
Without some fairly quick and extensive public education on how this legislation will affect every man, woman and child in this country, the media and the handful of civil liberty protesters will not have a hope in hades of convincing the ANC to reflect on what it is attempting to do.
That COSATU has taken up the fight is a major step forward in combatting this bill.
But it needs to go ever further. Because it seems to me that the determined mood of the ANC is such that it will probably take protest actions pretty much akin to those we have seen in the Arab Spring to get them to back down.
Enforcing the enforceable
Having said that, however, I firmly believe that if this bill becomes law, it will indeed be a huge black mark on our still pretty much pristine democracy, but at the same time I cannot for the life of me imagine how Government will be able to enforce the law.
Because as technology shrinks global communications, countries are finding that it is increasingly difficult to stop whistle-blowers being heard.
As I have alluded to before on Tour de Townships Careers Expo, while many governments have, in the past, been able to muzzle their media and come close to proving that the sword is, in fact mightier than the pen, they will find that the digital pen is now winning the battle hands down.
Can’t keep secrets
Recent history has shown that it is almost impossible these days for governments to keep secrets. Mainly because there is never a situation in any government, in any cabinet, where members will agree 100% with each other.
And all it takes is one disenchanted cabinet minister or party member to expose something with which they disagree by picking up a digital pen and letting the world know about it faster then it takes to pour another cup of coffee or butter a muffin.
Own worst enemies
While our government might complain bitterly about the media publishing embarrassing or potentially damaging information, the irony of it all is that, as any newspaper will tell you, this is generally not as a result of the media doing any snooping but because of tipoffs from within Government itself. From within Cabinet. From within the upper echelons of the party.
So, in my opinion, trying to protect any information or trying to keep the media in check by enacting legislation is futile and extremely counterproductive. All it will achieve is to prove conclusively that our government has something to hide.
The point is that digital pens are not confined within borders as its forebears were. Digital pens are global and almost impossible to pinpoint geographically. And muzzling a digital pen is almost impossible for Government because trying to cut it off means having to cripple one’s own communication and information network.
Governments that have tried to simply shut down the Internet have found that not only are they depriving themselves of their main mode of communications but that they are effectively closing down commerce and industry.
Despots on the spot
The revolutions that have been sweeping North Africa and the Middle East for the past few months are testimony to the might of the digital pen as it wields its power through Twitter and other social media – racing unchecked through the interwebs. The digital pen has been credited with the downfall of Egyptian President Mubarak and exposing despots right left and centre. Not to mention causing considerable discomfort to governments all over the world, not the least of which was the quite astounding WikiLeaks exposures of US double-dealing diplomacy.
And here in South Africa, as we watch our government building up steam to muzzle the media with the POIB, groups of SA expats are reported to be establishing offshore websites to allow whistle-blowers to expose those very things our government doesn’t want us to know about.
Just where these websites will be will remain unknown.
While the old-fashioned pen lay exclusively in the hands of journalists, the digital pen is owned by everyone – from the biggest media companies to just about every citizen who can afford a cellphone. In SA, there are about four cell phones for every man, woman and child. Even disenchanted cabinet minister have them
What governments and indeed, business, need to realise is that in this day and age, transparency is not a question of choice but rather a matter of fact.
Technology, coupled with increasing civil anger, is making secrets obsolete