By Suntosh Pillay
My one concern about Black Tuesday was that if the 400 MPs deciding our future decided not to pass the secrecy bill, then a celebratory White Wednesday might follow and, quite frankly, dressing up in white is never as flattering as black. In faded black jeans, looking like a trainee Gothic, I got into my white car (sorry, it didn’t know) to protest the bill, hoping somehow this small act of rebellion would echo to the halls of Parliament and result in change. If wishes were horses, comes to mind.
As I passed some students in white jackets (bloody agents), I wondered if sanity would prevail in the afternoon. Or, if by the time I finished my lunch, free speech would be in free fall. I wondered which of the online petitions I signed was going to be the one. I have a strange feeling there were more petitions than citizens in South Africa. Or if the vanguard of our media standing outside Parliament in Cape Town would sing and dance, like our public servants do when they’re angry. I wondered if anyone was planning an act of sabotage; perhaps stealing speaker Max Sisulu’s pen so that he’d be unable to take notes.
After forwarding another outraged analysis of our new secret society, I ate my lunch in a quiet spot outside; deliberately left my BlackBerry in my office, and savoured the peaceful solitude of real freedom.
No online petitions; no emails terrorising me into action; no Facebook statuses reminding me of our imminent demise. It was worse than when that guy predicted the end of the world. At least then, people were planning parties. Some guy even offered his laptop to me real cheap, saying he won’t need it the next day. I made him sign an agreement and gave him a fake number.
While escaping the information bombardment for a little while, and taking in the sight of the blooming flora, I secretly hoped to be a tree in my next life (then I remembered that secrets are bad, and proceeded to tell a stranger who walked past me, lest I be accused of giving in to a culture of mystery and suspicion).
She looked at me strangely, humoured me by saying she likes baobabs and that life is much simpler as a tree. I nodded and offered her a piece of my sandwich. She declined and continued along the pathway. I saw her go into the drama department and wondered if plays would start being censored too, and then stand-up comedians, films and, eventually, those guys painted in silver that start miming when you give them a rand. It’s a slippery slope, I thought. Quite literally; somebody should sweep these damn Jacaranda leaves.
Back in the office responding to “calls to save our democracy” while doing my Sars eFiling, I’m debating if I should provisionally declare what I could earn for this article. No use, I say, just in case it’s blacked out for offending some bureaucrat and is never published. I pay more taxes than I spend on groceries anyways, but I’m hoping that I could find a loophole in the Protection of Information Bill and use it prevent Sars from finding out how much I earn.
I’ve decided to buy a thick black marker just in case. Never know when you might need one to urgently prevent foreign operatives or international spies from Wikileaking embarrassing information — like your salary.
Still pondering the usefulness of a tree, I decide I’d rather not be reincarnated, just in case I return human, and the bill’s enacted. The predictions sound too meaty for my liking, hearing words like “onslaught”, “butchering” and “Magnus Malan”. It evokes queasy images.
By the time you read this, I would have finished writing this. I thought I’d state the obvious, while the obvious can still be stated, freely and without penalty. Who knows what draconian legislature will be thought up while singing in showers next year?
Who knows how many tenderpreneurs will be protected by the darkness of administrative red-tape that prevents journalists from accessing documents?
On that note, I rushed to the local stationery shop and ordered a truck load of “CONFIDENTIAL” stamps. It’s only a matter of time before they put out the tender and I want to be prepared. Anyways, back to “liking” statuses, commenting on blogs, and spamming friends into activism.
Suntosh Pillay is a *censored* who writes independently on social issues.