LeadSA fails to lead when it matters
- Ivo Vegter
- 13 Jun 2011 (South Africa)
It's very easy to drive with your lights on to express whatever it is you're expressing. Unless you drive a Volvo, in which case your lights are always on, and you Lead SA by default.
It's not quite as easy to stand up against an overreaching government that tries to control the media and cover up its own misguided policies and outright corruption.
It's easy to sweat the small stuff. Nobody likes potholes, and guess what, LeadSA opposes potholes. Everybody likes sport, and guess what, LeadSA urges us to support our sports teams.
The sickly-sweet political correctness of campaigns in support of stock suburban elite positions like recycling, fixing potholes and planting trees for some or other environment day is a lovely distraction from the tougher realities of South Africa.
Participants get to feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves, without having to bother with hard work, like writing parliamentary submissions, organising public opposition, analysing dangerous legislation, or launching court action to thwart political overreach that affects our rights.
As a result, our elected leaders are forcefully steaming ahead with dangerous press laws and unconstitutional plans to classify information about how its various organs conduct their work, criminalise investigative reporting, and withhold advertising from publications that don't dance to the government's tune.
Despite being an initiative led by media organisations Primedia Broadcasting and Independent Newspapers, there's not a peep from LeadSA about these ominous developments. Go poke around on its website, and see if you can find anything – anything at all – expressing support for the Right2Know campaign or opposition to the proposed laws that will muzzle not only the media, but academia, trade unions and civil society too.
The unelected busybodies who presume to “lead” South Africa at the flick of a headlamp switch are not just naïve Pollyannas skipping along, proudly congratulating themselves about their deep and meaningful contributions to uncontroversial issues like charity for abused children or pretty pavements.
The campaign has a dark side, too. I've written before about the troubling nature of the LeadSA Bill of Responsibilities. The response? People like Jacques Rousseau and me criticised the bill “without studying the contents properly”, condescended Yusuf Abramjee, the head of news and current affairs at Primedia Broadcasting.
Among the things I wrote was this: “The Bill of Responsibilities is not law. For that, let's be thankful. It lays the groundwork for law, however, and certainly imposes a great deal of social pressure for its nanny-state provisions.”
Here's an example of the alarming extent of what at first appears to be an inoffensive, soft-target campaign. Like most campaign organisers (and like the government's ideal media outlets), LeadSA does nothing to ask the hard questions about drinking and driving. Is three beers really just as dangerous as a dozen? Are roadblock searches without probable cause a violation of our constitutional rights? Is stopping and searching millions of vehicles a month a wise application of law enforcement resources? Is it reasonable to criminalise sharing a bottle of wine over dinner, or to jail a septuagenarian woman for it? Are threats of imprisonment (and famously, thanks to a national TV advertising campaign, rape) merely used to extort bribes?
Whatever the answers to the questions LeadSA doesn't ask, it goes much further than just picking an easy, emotional subject with which many agree and few dare to disagree.
The campaign now appears to be trying to convince the government to hold pub and club owners responsible for tipsy patrons who drive home. How exactly does LeadSA propose to make sure proprietors have “nowhere to hide”? Should they tail people to the parking lot to make sure they have a taxi or designated driver waiting? Should they refuse patrons more than two light beers? Should they detain customers against their will and against the law? How do they keep track of the actions, even outside their establishment, of dozens or many hundreds of patrons? Why should they be responsible for those actions at all?
Do they realise how truly scary it is to encourage citizens to spy and report on fellow citizens, and to encourage the state to hold innocent people responsible for the actions of others? Did the smug, proudly South African “leaders” not read George Orwell and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?
Perhaps this explains LeadSA's silence on the government's secrecy bills. It wants exactly the same: docile masses that submit to the moralistic jackboots of their betters, don't complain at petty-fascism, happily perform their prescribed civic duties, and worst of all, impose this political correctness on their family, friends and neighbours in turn.
That the media which started LeadSA might no longer be free to report on the failures and abuses of the elected leaders of South Africa is of no concern to these self-appointed “leaders”. LeadSA is too busy being busybodies and too reluctant to complain about losing the right to complain. DM
PS. Gasant Abarder, the editor of the Cape Argus, correctly points out that although the Western Cape Transport MEC, Robin Carlisle, made the announcement from the platform of the combined LeadSA and Cape Argus "Name and Shame" campaign, the proposal to target pubs and clubs is not specifically an initiative of LeadSA, but of the Western Cape provincial government. I (rightly or wrongly) interpreted silence and association as implied assent.
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