White people make me laugh, with our undying love of and addiction to panic. Its our favourite go-to while waiting for iPhone releases and complaining about bandwidth and slow internet. (For a list of things white people like, go here). Because while some of us have the decency to acknowledge that our problems are pretty first world, some whities love nothing more than a hearty, endless bitch while turning meat over a braai. It makes them strong, like the steaks they feast on. (Being a vegetarian whitie, I’m not really welcome at the braais.)
So when Black Tuesday rolled around and the vote for the Secrecy Bill passed, there was a flurry of ‘ohmigod, its liek, apartheid and stuff!’ and people mourning something that actually hasn’t happened. There was a proliferation of black Twitter avatars and that endlessly fucking repeated blacked-out meme ‘everything is fine, love your government.’ Apparently panic makes people repetitive too. Its not law, its just a bill. The definition of a bill is:
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute.
I’m sure many tickets were booked for Australia to go scouting for new homes because of it. The emigration-assistance companies must be rubbing their hands in obscene glee.
But as Hayibo pointed out, this is Democracy in action. (They interview Democracy, it is fantastic.) People shouldn’t be mourning something that isn’t’ dead. That’s rude. I was speaking to my Aikido Sensei, who is a Supreme Court advocate, about the constitutionality of the Bill, and what its chances are. He said that it will likely fall on its face in Constitutional Court. (My wording, not his. He’s a polite man.) For those who are worried about Zuma’s BFF Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng, he is only one judge, and its not that easy to sway twelve other judges. Thirteen judges stand between the Bill’s graduation to Law. And when this Bill was brought before them last time, it was chucked out and broke its jaw on the pavement. For interests sake, and because legal documents are sexy, all of the ConCourt’s decisions can be found here.
And this is my problem with the panicking whites. (We have the Internet, run the media and love them braais; we are the most vocal group.) Mail and Guardian were crying apartheid with their publicity stunt with the blacked-out pages; thankully one of their journalists has stepped up to say something reasonable about what apartheid actually meant for media. Its nothing like it is now. And it pretty offensive to draw the same comparison considering that journalists used to disappear for reporting things; now they just Twitter about the thrill of being arrested. The panic also shows absolutely no respect or belief in our remarkable judicial system. Does anyone remember when the Thabo Mbeki pushed to allow three presidential terms? That got tossed out in February 2006. The government cannot pass laws without the blessing of the courts, and any citizen can bring these laws before the ConCourt and challenge them. Avusa and Media24 have plenty of money to hire lawyers; I’m sure they’ve already started assembling a fleet of them to take this Bill to court.
South Africa is not turning into a banana republic; unlike the United States we don’t have designated speech zones. People were free to protest and there was no teargassing or even police presence. Sure, the protests were relatively small, but they happened and went unmolested. Isn’t that something to be proud of? 4,000 protestors have been arrested in the Occupy movement and not one reporter was arrested on Tuesday. The media went goth, the social networks were ablaze and we enjoyed a moment of magic when we found something to agree on. The protests were necessary; the panic and wringing of hands wasn’t.
I truly believe that this Bill won’t become law. Media will get to continue reporting old stories like Facebook Racist and the Demi Moore breakup and prison guards having sex in their tedious tabloid way. Zapiro will go unjailed (thankfully) and life goes on. It always does in South Africa. We love to panic; ‘Eugene Terreblanche is dead! Race war!’ or ‘We’ll never finish the stadiums in time’ or ‘Malema’s building a house!’. And most of the time, things sort themselves out and we go on. We hosted an amazing World Cup, the AWB is still irrelevant and Ventersdrop’s sandy roads are not soaking up blood. Malema got a bit of a fright and the Bill is just an example of people trying to burn their laundry before it gets aired. That we even knew the Bill was happening is a pretty healthy sign of a democracy.
Its not perfect, this mad country, but we grow and laugh and panic together. I love it!