The death of my friend Zwelakhe Sisulu has heightened my feeling of deja vu. I keep finding myself back in the darkest days of apartheid when South Africa’s media finally stopped playing to the rules and started fighting the nationalist government.
No one was ever quite sure of precisely when this happened but it was certainly in the latter days of apartheid for most media.
As editor of New Nation, Sisulu fought bravely against the apartheid regime. So bravely that he was the last South African to be unbanned when apartheid eventually collapsed.
In the preceding years, the rules of journalism went slowly but surely out of the window as most of South Africa’s mass media started fighting fire with fire. They became an unofficial opposition party.
I get the feeling that right now a number of media are on the brink of tossing the rulebook out of the window again. Many media owners and editors have told me that they are tired of watching governing party politicians plundering the country’s resources right left and centre. And watching the ravages of cadre deployment destroying institutions such as SAA and the SABC.
Watching government seemingly continuing to support crippling cost of living increases through e-tolling and rocketing fuel prices at a time when the majority of South Africans simply do not have any extra money to pay for it all.
And most of all, I am told, as they watched illegal strikers resorting to barbaric retribution against those of their colleagues who are simply using their constitutional right to continue working.
Not to mention watching the authorities standing by helplessly as more than 120 trucks are destroyed and innocent lives lost in the name of labour bargaining.
So far, the mass media is covering these news events as news events.
But, I have to wonder just how much more anarchy and political apathy and plundering will have to take place before an anti-apartheid style war is declared?
Of course, the ANC probably believe that the majority of mass media have already reached that point. But, that is pure paranoia because pretty every single exposé by the media has been backed by solid evidence – most of which was leaked by elements within the fractured governing party.
I hope that there won’t be an anti-apartheid style declaration of war by the media. Not even when government eventually imposes media restrictions.
It would be an absolute tragedy after South Africa had basked in the glory of having the most free press in the world just after 1994, if that proud badge of honour were to be withdrawn.
I get the feeling that most of our mass media is getting more and more horrified at the economic carnage that they see our lackadaisical government allowing to take place.
I really cannot shake off this feeling of media deja vu.
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