Christina Engela's picture


I recently learned of the South African government’s pandering to religious fundamentalist groups, and began warning of this threat to civil rights and freedoms as protected by the Constitution. Just this week, I saw a news article announcing further confirmation of this collusion between the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs in particular, and the religious right wing - in the form of the "Justice Alliance of South Africa" (JASA).

It reminds me of the old National-Party government and the old Apartheid regime, for people to work to introduce censorship - particularly censorship based on the shaky ground of religious objection - into a modern constitutional secular democracy. In fact, to me it bears the same stink of the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the old Soviet Union - and in places like Zimbabwe, where it is illegal to even criticize the president.

The Justice Alliance of SA is a small fringe group of religious fundamentalists masquerading as a bona fide legal interest group - but with clear ulterior motives to further a conservative and theocratic agenda which will deprive the broader public of freedoms and liberties they now take for granted. 

By hiding behind the all too convenient pretext of “protecting children” - a motive which is just too cute and naïve’ (not to mention too good to be true), but which is also patently deceitful, and is by now a “signature” modus operandi of such groups who push an anti-liberal agenda around the world - they do this by detracting from the real issues we face. In fact, this is nothing more than manipulating the facts to persuade the public to think that things will be better for them if they leave the knotty problems of state to good, moral, Christian leaders - and that all the problems faced by them will go away if they start tightening the screws on people's "morality". Yes, I can see how that will solve everything.

Well, something is due back at the lab to have it's bolts tightened - and I think it is the tendency of certain groups - particularly fundamentalists - in this country, and others, to try and tell other people how to live.

We've seen how this sort of scenario plays out before, with the Nazi's, various fascist regimes in Europe in the last century, communism and now we are seeing it in its next and new incarnation - in the guise of religious fundamentalism, especially where this finds its way into government.

A closer inspection of this devious plot reveals something which is becoming rather popular in South African politics - as well as African politics in general - the science of scapegoating - also known as "passing the buck". This subterfuge is found by many such groups to be convenient in making themselves look good by making others, usually a minority group, look bad - or even worse than them.

"We're not the bad guys here" they might say - "we're the good guys, we're standing up for Christianity and morality and protecting children and families from the immoral people and the filth and the threats they represent". Of course, they won't be the ones to tell you that in order to do this, they will be taking away your right to access whatever media they censor freely, and that in effect they are taking away a little bit more of your freedom, independence and responsibility. But hey, what's a little freedom for a lot more security? I mean hey, our poor kiddies spend all day online surfing porn and staring at naked titties on their cell phones - we have to do something!

The "Justice Alliance of SA" is taking it upon themselves to dictate public morality, and deciding on behalf of full-grown adults what they may have access to or not - in fact taking away from them the legal rights of choice and free will. In fact, it seems to me that if one looks at this in a religious context - like the right wing fundamentalists do - they seem intent on depriving people of the right to exercise their "god-given" free will and freedom of choice. They will make believers of you.

If the Justice Alliance and their fundamentalist allies, get their way, South Africa will rank among countries like Iran, China, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and the Gaza Strip - quite an odious achievement – and quite a step backwards time - and in terms of democracy and human rights!

As things currently stand, South Africa is already known for its duplicity in not respecting or enforcing - or "interpreting" laws empowered by our Constitution, which protect some of our human rights – and such a step backwards will be a further demonstration of our government’s growing links with fundamentalist, anti-human rights (and anti-secular) groups, if such morality/censorship laws are enacted.

The rationale behind this proposed new law, is supposed to be "protecting the nation’s children from exposure to pornography" – a move which in effect aims to relieve the parent of the responsibility of caring for their children – and makes a rather bold statement that the State is now the parent - and even adults are to be treated like naughty little children in every sense of the word. This makes even clearer the statement by Ms Zille that we are moving ever closer to a "Mag-staat" - otherwise known as the “nanny-state”.

The solution to this little problem of child access to pornography already exists, and has for quite some time - an easy solution, which infringes on nobodies rights to the freedom of access to information. Parents can easily control what access their children have to internet pornography, and pornography on mobile phones - it couldn’t be simpler. There are so many “net nanny” applications for parents themselves to install on their home PC’s to block undesirable websites and adverts, and there are enough low-end mobile phones available on the market which parents can provide their children with – which by their low-specification design, cannot access the internet. It seems to me that if these nice folks wanting to turn us all into "wards of the state" have done their homework and want to actually solve the problem they are claiming to want to solve - shouldn't be pushing these solutions instead? So why aren't they?

The question begs asking: Why work to enact such draconian and heavy-handed Government interference in the daily and private lives of the nation? Surely this is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, with the Government taking upon itself the role of “Big Brother”? (As a side-issue I have to note that the movie version of George Orwell's masterpiece which dramatically details the workings of a totalitarian state, is out of print and no-longer available. I wonder why?)

The answer is simple - the problem such groups have with pornography has nothing to do with civil matters, or actual issues of crime and child abuse - but it is for them a matter of their personal narrow view of their religion and their own religious principles. Which have what to do with a constitutional democracy? Um.

The problem would seem to lie with the fundamentalists here - being that if people are not toe-ing the line as far as they are concerned - then parents and adults should be dis empowered, their right to decide for themselves what they want to do in their own bedrooms, what they want to read, watch or listen to, should be taken away. In short - "if you don't do what we want you to do, then we will change the laws to MAKE you do what we want you to do".

This, as I have tried to point out before, would of course only be the start. First, they will ban something seemingly petty “for the common good”, then this new law will be adapted or applied to other knotty problems and "threats" facing "children" and "the family" - until the Thought Police at last has a death-grip on society quite similar to what the NP government had back in the good old days.

Should one look up the meaning of fascism, it is defined as a “political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)” [Princeton University Wordweb]. Fascism. It is a frightening word - and one which I do not apply here lightly. And once people start to erode away the rights of the individual and swing more power into the hands of the State, one starts down the slippery slope of authoritarian rule - and fascism.

Just as much as religious fundamentalists the world over have been active in Uganda - a proven fact, not conjecture or speculation - so they have been working very hard in South Africa. The only thing which has kept them at bay for so long has been our Constitution – and as indicated by their recent upsurge in soliciting and influencing the Government to take up their cause, and to change laws and oppose the Constitution - they have been very, very hard at work.

It would seem that there are way more serious problems facing the people of South Africa than a need for facetious new “morality” laws – such as rampant corruption, xenophobia, porous borders, incompetent officials, violent crime, unemployment - and water and power crises.

In this country, children can watch WWF wrestling on TV, news reports showing bloodied bodies, movies featuring gratuitous violence, be indoctrinated by watching religious media and listen to religious personalities advocating hatred and intolerance against minority groups under the pretext of "religious freedom" - far easier than they can access porn and smut on the internet or on their mobile phones. Strangely enough, there is no censorship on that. Yet. It is duplicity in the first degree.

(Posted at Sour Grapes)

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