The Protection of Information Bill and the proposed media tribunal are blights on South Africa’s democratic horizon. The power to declare anything, from the slightly embarrassing to the most heinous acts of fraud, to be worthy of protection from prying eyes should never be given to a politician, or to anyone for that matter. The temptation to use such power, not to protect the state but to protect oneself, will be too great for any ordinary mortal. All of us, perhaps especially our politicians who are faced with greater temptations than the rest of us, need the prying eyes of journalists with their awkward questions, to keep us honest.
Politicians fail to appreciate that such measures do not work and they are counterproductive. Even the draconian Nationalist Party juggernaut at the height of its powers, banning articles, books, writers and newspapers, could not stop the truth getting out. The truth will indeed overcome.
As for being counterproductive, the populace does not roll over and play dead in the absence of news. They make assumptions as they hear stories and rumours and gossip. And the rumours begin to take on more form and substance than the official truth. The official line is rejected and people look elsewhere for truth and, ultimately, for their future.
Christians too fail to understand this. We claim Jesus’ statements, “I am the truth” and, “The truth shall set you free.” And we think that gives us the edge. But it is Jesus himself who sets us free, not my inadequate portrayal of Jesus, or my imperfect interpretation of the Bible.
None of us has a handle on Jesus. He is beyond our understanding and way beyond our grasp. As Paul put it, “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete.” We have so much to learn from one another—sinners and saints alike, as well as those who follow a different way from ours.
If we could learn to share with others the Jesus we are beginning to discover, rather than our limited certainties and legislative do’s and don’ts, we would begin to discern the truth that will set us all free. It is through that process, I believe, that we discover Jesus in all his glory. If, instead, we close our minds to the views and experiences of others, we are no different from those politicians who wish to force their perception of reality on to the world, bringing neither truth, nor love.