In 2009 the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) submitted a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000. We filled in the forms in January 2010 requesting all the documents pertaining the hiring of Human Resource Manager Mr Ndwayana, including the information pertaining the hiring of Library East cleaner. We submitted the request because we were quite aware that in terms of the hiring policy, a candidate who gets the highest score must be eligible to fill the vacant post. However this was not the case when the Human Resource Manager was employed at Makana Municipality. Mr Ndwayana was a preferred candidate because of his close political and personal ties with the Director for Corporate Services, Mr Thabiso Klass. To this day they have literally and wittingly refused to comply and provide the UPM with the records.
There is land in Grahamstown, Cradock Heights (suburbs area) that belonged to the public; in early 2000 under the mayoral ship of Vumile Lwana, the councillors distributed the land among themselves. The public exerted pressure that a criminal case must be opened and an investigation must be carried out. To this day, there has been no report on the investigation, and the matter has been dragging for ages.
The UPM is also fighting for the community of Vukani to have their houses rebuilt because of poor workmanship and to also have the houses put Eastern Cape provincial government’s rectification list. The Daily Dispatch newspaper has been very helpful in our efforts to expose the state of Vukani houses in Grahamstown. UPM activist Nomiki Ncamiso died due to pneumonia-related diseases because of the state of the house she lived in. The front wall fell on her leg and she was hospitalised after sustaining injuries. They reported the matter to Makana Municipality; they were given black plastic bags to cover the whole front of the wall; these conditions undoubtedly contributed to her death. The list of corruption is endless; to cover it I will have to write a book.
The Promotion of Access to Information Act could potentially be an instrument for us as UPM to uncover corruption, if the Municipality did not simply ignore our requests. The news of the proposed bill, the Protection of Information Bill, is a blow. In fact it the complete negation of democracy, and will make it even more difficult, if not impossible to expose corruption at Municipal level. Many Municipalities are collapsing under the weight of corruption, and if conditions of poverty and unemployment are to be addressed, then corruption needs to be rooted out of local governments. Had it not been for the Constitutional right of access to information, we would not have uncovered that the Zuma regime spent R1.5 billion of taxpayers money on luxuries. Some of the expenditure includes Lindiwe Sisulu’s purchase of a R7million Mercedes – Benz vehicle. Siphiwe Nyanda who spent R515 000 dining with girlfriends and boyfriends at different five star luxurious hotels. We would not have uncovered that Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma is heading for his first billion while Kgalema Montlante’s lover is also going for her first billion. Reporting on such issues will become even more impossible of a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal is set up.
This does mean that the media are angels. Let me paraphrase American journalist and economist John Swinton when he writes; “There is no such thing as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dare write his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper; others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, any of you who would be foolish as to write his honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. We are the tools and vassals of rich man behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, possibilities and lives are all the property of other man. We are the intellectual prostitutes.”
But does the problem of the media’s lack of independence require the introduction of a new Act, the Protection of Information Bill, as well as a Media Appeals Tribunal? This seems to be like curing the patient by giving it poison rather than medicine. The Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunal are nothing but attempts by the ruling party to monopolize the press. The proposed Bill and Tribunal have absolutely nothing to do with freeing the press from the yolk of capital. It is the very same capital that acts through the ruling party and continues to dominate economic power. It is the ruling party that has embraced neo-liberalism, where the state is simply an organizing tool for maximizing the profits of private industry. Inequality is deepening in our country and the majority of people live below poverty line. The ideas of the ruling class cannot be crushed through pieces of legislation that control what the media say; however they must be challenged at production level. The media must also be transformed and genuinely democratized so that really give a voice to the poor; this will not happen if the ANC pursues these Bills, and true transformation of the media is not their intention anyway: control is.
We are all dragged to the grave by the abominations of capital; through curable diseases, poverty and unemployment. We will never oppose any move by the government to shift to the left. However any attempts to use the apparatus of the bourgeois state of the ruling class which serves the ruling class rights for the purpose of abolishing those rights, are doomed to fail Comrade Blade Nzimande. You should remember this part.