Crying for the beloved Country

You have the right to know! Many will wonder why on earth is someone who chose to leave South Africa and start a new life in Israel is doing jumping on her soap box and giving her opinion about  the protection of State Information Bill that will be passed in South Africa on November 22nd.  (although it still needs to go to provincial level, then back to the president before being gazetted)

 The sign of a healthy democracy is a free and open press. The role of the media is to shine a light on the dark corners of government corruption and expose any form of bad governance. The rule is simple. The government is answerable to the citizens of the country it governs. Hey, they put you there – and they can remove you! In a democracy, the citizens have a right to know if their rulers are dodgy and/or if they are doing things with valuable tax money that raises an eyebrow. South Africans fought long and hard for true democratic rule and can boast one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world. The passing of a law that disallows the criticism of the government and its institutions and muzzles the press not only makes a mockery of the tenets to which many hold dear but is tragic for a country that can boast the Freedom Charter as a yardstick for measuring human rights. Yesterday the ruling ANC cocked a giant snoot at the South African Constitution, her citizens – and the fight of many to end Apartheid. There is no great difference between the censoring of the press in the Apartheid era and now!


I feel compelled to add my voice to the growing outcry against this bill. November 22nd 2011 will go down in South African history as one of its darkest days. Even though I live in Israel I showed my solidarity – as did many of my South African, American, Israeli and other colleagues – for “Black Tuesday” by wearing something black. The concept of a free press is something to hold sacred. A free press tells us that we live in countries that allow us the freedom of expression. As someone who makes a living as a wordsmith, the idea of being silenced would be like losing one of my senses. Although many would agree that the idea of Rolene Marks finally shutting up may be a good thing! Two weeks ago I was the subject of a hate blog – it seems someone took exception to my contrary opinion to theirs. I say bring it on!!! I will protect YOUR right to disagree with me.


I have spent most of my life doing some kind of advocacy work for Israel. More often than not I have heard many people grumbling about the Israeli press. It is too left, too right, criticises the government too much, does not criticise enough. Today I am grateful for our media. I am often asked why the world media is so hostile against Israel. Although it is painful to see my country unfairly singled out for opprobrium, I am glad that we allow it – and that we can hold our own against the accusations that come. Criticising the government is the national sport of Israel and the old adage “two Jews, four opinions” is very true. Long may we enjoy this right!


South Africa, your people fought bravely to end Apartheid and institute freedom for all. Continue the fight to include the media in the category “ALL”! In the immortal words of a protestor in Cape Town yesterday (and my apologies to non-South Africans who may not get the joke)….JOU MA SE SECRECY BILL!

8 thoughts on “Crying for the beloved Country

  1. It takes something like the South African secrecy bill V the wrath of “the people” to wake us up, and make us look to Israel as a supreme example of a working democracy. As for shutting you up.. *GASP* heaven forbid! Burst forth on Israel and splash your colours everywhere you go, Rolene. Kol Hakevod!


  2. Hi Rolene,
    Since1994 how many ANC politicians have been forced to resign or faced criminal prosecutions due to press corruption allegations? I can only recall Tony Yengeni.
    The SA press has been tooth-less. It has not been able to have much impact on the rampant corruption endemic in the one party ANC state.
    This legislation will back-fire on the ANC. Ironically enough it might be just what the doctor ordered. The ANC , of course, are too arrogant to recognize their folly but it will create a more hostile press and will probably help to increase the popularity of the opposition parties.
    I also have my doubts whether any journalists will go to jail.


  3. You have worded our feelings absolutely.Unfortunately the government doesn’t really believe it is answerable to anyone….and that we are all answerable to them…..


  4. Well said Rolene, I’m in CT till Feb, and yesterday was indeed a dark day. Will the Government even take notice of all the protests throughout the country? Never seen the Nation so incensed for a L-O-N-G time, and rightly so!!
    Here’s praying that they come to their senses and scrap this terrible Secrecy Bill.


  5. I watched the debate from Parliament live with a very heavy heart knowing that those overwhelmed with excitement in anticipation of their pending victory, had little or no sense of what they were doing. Above all, the circus-like atmosphere that permeated the “debate” left the deepest impression. Had they presented their case for the introduction of this awful Bill, which would effectively drag us back into the darkness of dishonor, with some measure of reluctance – some admission that they were taking this retrogressive step because the security of the nation demanded it – it would have at least enabled one to feel a some sense of sympathy for their cause and some appreciation of the “pain” that they were subjecting themselves to. However, the vote was clearly taken with overwhelming glee in the knowledge that they had achieved their victory over all opposition. There was absolutely no comprehension of the consequences or even a nod of gratitude to those who had given their lives fighting to eradicate the very same Bill that they were now adopting. To me this is the worst of it.
    This was nothing but a parliamentary “toi-toi”.

    And what’s the purpose behind it? – Simply to hide their extensive and ever-growing corruption from the eyes of the people who voted them in, in good faith. What Mandela must be feeling.


  6. Healthy democracy? South Africa has little more than a decade of free and fair elections. Democratic institutions are still being built. Corruption remains rampant. The outrage at this bill seems a little naive. South Africa is still on the edge


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