Let Andile Mngxitama speak his mind

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA PEN, RE ANDILE MNGXITAMA’S COMMENTS ON MAIL & GUARDIAN COLUMNIST JARED SACKS

PRETORIA PEN supports freedom of speech and expression and therefore sees nothing wrong with Andile Mngxitama’s castigation of Jared Sacks, including a threat to beat him up.

The following is the problematic phrase from Mngxitama’s Facebook page which has triggered the current polemic in the media: “I believe if there are any real bikoists out there, whenever we see that white little bastard called jared sacks we must beat the shit out of him.”

This phrase must be seen in context. First of all, Mngxitama is known for his polemical and sometimes controversial statements. He writes a column in the Mail & Guardian and has written regularly for City Press and The Sowetan, putting forward so-called “black consciousness” views. Many editors, organisers of conferences and so on, solicit Mngxitama’s views, knowing that he sometimes comes across as a “radical”.

On the issue of violence, Jared Sacks – against whom Mngxitama is reacting – is not entirely a pacifist either. In his opinion piece published in the Mail & Guardian, he states: “Would the Biko of 1977 have voted for Ramphele in 2013? Not a chance. Biko did not believe in black messiahs or managers in a neocolonial capitalist system. Quite the opposite: he genuinely believed in the black masses and in their ability to lead the revolution and collectively build a wholly new society. The mineworkers, shack-dwellers and farmworkers of this country stand diametrically opposed to everything Ramphele believes in.”

Indirectly, Sacks is also calling for violence in the form of a revolution against the “neocolonial capitalist system” led by the “black masses”. In fact, he is advocating nothing less than some kind of Maoist revolt in the style of the “Cultural Revolution”.

Mngxitama astutely reminds him that he is, in fact, not a member of the black masses. Neither may he, as a white, arrogate unto himself the function of privileged interpreter or exegete of Steve Biko’s black consciousness philosophy.

Within the context, “beating the shit out of him” could also be a metaphor, meaning: “defeating his pseudo-black posturing in an argument about what Steve Biko really said”.

Verashni Pillay, deputy editor of the Mail & Guardian online, admits that “it almost sounds like an invitation to a jolly bout of fisticuffs”, as opposed to Jared Sacks’s rather more sinister clarion call for revolution which, within a multiethnic society like South Africa’s, might spiral into mass violence and even genocide.

Until such time as Andile Mngxitama really assaults Jared Sacks, which is criminally punishable in South Africa, he should be allowed to speak his mind, also on radio where he is apparently being denied the opportunity to respond to his critics.

Issued by: Dr. Dan Roodt, President

PRETORIA PEN is a literary society.

Contact: president@pretoriapen.co.za

South Africa’s chains of the mind (media release)

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA PEN, FOLLOWING ON WRITER RIANA SCHEEPERS’S PUBLIC COMMENTS

South Africa’s chains of the mind

Since 1989 violence in South Africa has almost constantly increased to a level where the country today resembles a war zone. In fact, civilian casualty rates in South Africa are higher than in Afghanistan and many other countries officially at war.

Authors and literary critics too, have not been spared. Pieter Pieterse, Lisbé Smuts-Smith and Louw Rabie, brother of Jan Rabie, were brutally murdered. Last year novelist and script writer Chris Barnard was held hostage and tortured. A week ago the elderly parents of Riana Scheepers were attacked and almost killed, leading her to remark in the Johannesburg daily Beeld: “The country is in a state of moral decay.”

South Africa is the country with the highest incidence of rape in the world, even higher than in war-torn countries. However, after describing an interracial gang rape in his novel Disgrace, Nobel prize winner J.M. Coetzee was accused of racism and many think that criticism by former President Thabo Mbeki contributed to his decision to emigrate to Australia, a safe haven for many South Africans fleeing local violence.

If anything, South Africa today represents a dystopia that in any other country would have led to at least some literary or philosophical reflection. As evidenced by Riana Scheepers’s guilt-ridden protestations that “my mother and father are not two racists living in a white tower” (as if racists deserve the death penalty), authors are petrified of even referring to the factual reality, let alone venturing into the minefield of describing sadistic practices and ethnic torture in books.

Whereas political correctness in other countries may be the subject of jokes and satire, in South Africa it has almost become a religious dogma. Just two weeks ago, the seasoned and respected Afrikaans poet Breyten Breytenbach who spent eight years in prison for plotting the overthrow of the previous (white) government, remarked: “Political correctness all over the world is a disease, multiculturalism is worse than the Black Death of the Middle Ages!”

In a national living out of the Stockholm syndrome, journalists and even ordinary people on Facebook are quick to castigate and vilify anyone who dares to ascribe moral responsibility to the mostly young, Clockwork-Orange-like perpetrators, who are usually seen as the unfortunate victims of poverty and broken homes. Those intrepid novelists, such as Gustav Venter, who have tried to render explicit some of the underlying fears, neuroses and paradoxes around violence that proliferate in our bizarre ex-British colony, have not even been reviewed. They find themselves in a twilight, underground world of electronic samizdat, unseen by critics and pundits.

Breytenbach’s comments on political correctness and multiculturalism, although echoing those of Chancellor Angela Merkel a few years ago, probably also represent a bridge too far. It is quite possible that he will be “uninvited” from the Woordfees and other festivals where authors are censored or even banned from the premises for broaching taboo topics around murder, rape and torture.

South Africa is repeating the totalitarian mental structures of many twentieth-century societies, especially in Eastern Europe. In imagining itself as an ideal society, a multicultural democracy after the American model, it is refusing to acknowledge its own, increasingly dark side. It punishes or censors those who dare to speak out or depict in their works the often innocent victims of social, criminal and political violence.

Whereas the gulag of Solzhenitsyn was physical and – although hidden – visible enough to be eventually exposed in broad daylight, our chains are those of the mind. In the kind of “Western masochism” described by French “new philosopher” and novelist Pascal Bruckner, we engage in endless self-flagellation and guilty rituals, instead of being open to the new and often ugly reality we see all around us.

Not only the violence and dehumanisation, but also the venality, the ostentation and spendthrift ways of the South African elite, are phenomena betraying the amoral values of our society.

Who will dare to portray South Africa’s agony and decadence, at the risk of the cliché: publish and be damned?

Issued by: Dr. Dan Roodt, President

PRETORIA PEN is a literary society.

Contact: president@pretoriapen.co.za

Pretoria-PEN betreur toenemende onverdraagsaamheid in Suid-Afrika

Afrikaans hier onder.

MEDIA RELEASE ON 25 NOVEMBER 2011

Pretoria PEN regrets growing intolerance in South Africa

Pretoria PEN, the writers’ assocation, has regretted the growing intolerance in South Africa, as manifested in the ongoing controversy around the Protection of Information bill. “The bill and media reactions to it have created a rift between the ruling African National Congress and minority groups reminiscent of the polarization that took place in Zimbabwe a decade ago between ZANU PF and the opposition which ultimately led to the dissolution of that country,” said Dr. Dan Roodt, president of Pretoria PEN.

“Whereas the bill may be abused in order to silence or intimidate journalists, mere noise or protest will not reverse its passage through parliament where the ANC enjoys an overwhelming majority due to the centralised political system adopted in 1994. It is our view that government should heed its critics and amend the bill to save freedom of speech and access to information in South Africa,” Roodt continued.

Affiliated to PEN International in London, Pretoria PEN represents approximately forty Afrikaans-language authors in the north of the country. The association is dedicated to the promotion of literature and freedom of expression. The members of Pretoria PEN also subscribe to the PEN Charter which makes it incumbent upon writers “to use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations”, as well as “to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong as well as throughout the world whenever this is possible”.

As a banned author under the former political system in South Africa, Roodt “feels particularly strongly that freedom of speech in South Africa should be protected against all threats, not only from the government but also from the commercial media monopolies of South Africa and some narrow-minded journalists who regularly abuse such monopoly power by vilifying or besmirching public figures and stifling rational debate. The ultimate test of any liberal democracy is its tolerance towards minority views, both in an ethnic and moral sense.”

Contact Dan Roodt president@pretoriapen.co.za

MEDIAVERKLARING OP 25 NOVEMBER 2011

Pretoria-PEN betreur toenemende onverdraagsaamheid in Suid-Afrika

Pretoria-PEN, die skrywersvereniging, betreur die toenemende onverdraagsaamheid in Suid-Afrika, wat manifesteer in die huidige omstredenheid rondom die Wet op die beskerming van inligting. “Die wet en mediareaksies daarop het ‘n breuk tussen die regerende ANC en minderheidsgroepe veroorsaak wat aan die polarisering van Zimbabwe ongeveer ‘n dekade gelede herinner. Daardie polarisering het uiteindelik tot die ineenstorting van die land gelei,” het dr. Dan Roodt, president van Pretoria-PEN, gesê.

“Terwyl die wet misbruik mag word om joernaliste stil te maak of te intimideer, sal blote lawaai of protes ook nie die goedkeuring daarvan deur die parlement ongedaan maak nie, gegewe die ANC se oorweldigende meerderheid weens die gesentraliseerde politieke stelsel wat in 1994 aangeneem is. Na ons mening moet die regering sy kritici in ag neem en die wet wysig om spraakvryheid en toegang tot inligting in Suid-Afrika te red,” het Roodt voortgegaan.

Pretoria-PEN is by PEN Internasionaal in Londen geaffilieer en verteenwoordig ongeveer veertig Afrikaanse skrywers in die noorde van die land. Die vereniging is verbind tot die bevordering van letterkunde en vryheid van spraak. Die lede van Pretoria-PEN onderskryf ook die PEN-handves wat skrywers verplig om “te alle tye die invloed tot hul beskikking te gebruik om goeie begrip en onderlinge respek tussen volkere te bevorder”. Skrywers onderneem ook “om elke vorm van onderdrukking van spraakvryheid in die land en in die gemeenskap waartoe hulle behoort teen te staan, sowel as orals ter wêreld waar dit ook al moontlik is”.

As ‘n verbode skrywer onder die vorige Suid-Afrikaanse bewind, voel Roodt “veral sterk daaroor dat spraakvryheid in Suid-Afrika teen alle bedreigings beskerm behoort te word, nie net vanuit die regering nie maar ook vanuit die winsgedrewe mediamonopolieë van Suid-Afrika en sommige benepe joernaliste wat gereeld sulke monopolistiese mag misbruik deur openbare figure te verguis of te beswadder en rasionele debat in die doofpot te steek. Die uiteindelike toets vir enige liberale demokrasie is geleë in sy vedraagsaamheid teenoor minderheidsieninge, wat sowel in etniese as morele sin opgevat moet word.”

Kontak Dan Roodt president@pretoriapen.co.za

Pretoria-PEN bring hulde aan George Weideman

George Weideman

George Weideman

George Weideman is vanoggend om 03:30 in die ouderdom van 61 jaar in die Louis Leipoldt-hospitaal in Bellville oorlede. Weideman was die skrywer van sewe digbundels, twee romans, vier bundels kortverhale, sewe jeugboeke, asook verhoogdramas waarvan net een gepubliseer is en drie ongepubliseerde radiodramas.

Die skrywersorganisasie Pretoria-PEN het in sy reaksie op die afsterwe van George Weideman sy spyt en intense hartseer uitgespreek. “Sowel die Afrikanervolk as die Afrikaanse skrywersgemeenskap verloor in George ‘n talentvolle mens en sprankelende skrywer. Nie net was Weideman met sy digbundels en toneelstukke ‘n unieke stem in die Afrikaanse letterkunde nie, maar hy het veral met sy grootse pikareske roman Draaijakkals ‘n taamlik onlangse hoogtepunt in ons prosa gelewer,” het die president van Pretoria-PEN, dr. Dan Roodt, gesê.

Weideman was ‘n innemende en geesdriftige mens wat by almal geliefd was. Hy was boonop iemand wat hom in die Afrikaanse taal verkneukel het en tot vindingryke woordspel en gevatte uitdrukkings in staat was.

Onderliggend aan die meeste van sy werk is ‘n toon van ironie en spot. Draaijakkals kan met die klassieke werke van Cervantes of Laurence Sterne vergelyk word en sal iewers in die toekoms nog hoër deur ons kritici aangeslaan word as wat dit reeds is.

“George Weideman was ‘n stigterslid van Pretoria-PEN net enkele jare gelede. As skrywersgroepering wil ons ons medelye met George Weideman se naasbestaandes uitspreek en hulle verseker dat hulle verlies ook ons verlies is. Weideman verdien ons almal se hulde vir die groot mens en groot kunstenaar wat hy was,” het Roodt voortgegaan.

Spraakvryheid en ‘rassisme’, oor David Bullard

MEDIAVERKLARING DEUR DIE PRETORIA-PEN OP 14 APRIL 2006

(English translation underneath)

SPRAAKVRYHEID EN ‘RASSISME’

Ons, lede van die Pretoria-PEN, ’n vereniging van skrywers, joernaliste en uitgewers, wat insgelyks by die Internasionale PEN geaffilieer is, verwerp die afdanking van die gewilde Sunday Times-rubriekskrywer, David Bullard. Bullard is as rubriekskrywer ontslaan omdat hy ’n speelse, satiriese stuk oor ’n fiktiewe Suid-Afrikaanse verlede sonder Westerse invloed geskryf het. Dit is as “rassisties” beskou. Sederdien is hy onderwerp aan buitensporige openbare kritiek sowel as dreigemente om van haatspraak by die Suid-Afrikaanse Menseregtekommissie aangekla te word.

Ongegronde beskuldigings van rassisme en haatspraak onderlê die nuwe aanslag op spraakvryheid in die huidige tydvak. Die toenemende aantal en intensiteit van sulke beskuldigings verteenwoordig ’n teken dat Suid-Afrika in ’n klimaat van Middeleeuse heksejagte teen skrywers en joernaliste verval wat verseg om by die stomme polities korrekte gemeenplase van ons meesters te hou. Daar word van hulle verlang om die vele probleme van ons samelewing, soos wetteloosheid, ekstreme geweld, korrupsie en vervallende infrastruktuur met slaggate in ons paaie en gereelde kragonderbrekings te ignorer of te sensureer.

Ons staatspresident het so pas verklaar dat “daar geen krisis in Zimbabwe heers nie”. Dit is bloot nog ’n manifestasie van die toenemend Orwelliaanse scenario on Suid-Afrika wat ons dwing om deel te neem aan die opmaak van ’n kammawerklikheid. Enige vorm van werklike kritiek of eerlikheid word as “rassisme” gestigmatiseer. Soos Alain Finkielkraut met skerp waarneming in 2005 opgemerk het, het die “hoë ideaal van die ‘oorlog teen rassisme’ geleidelik in ’n afskuwelik valse ideologie verander. En hierdie anti-rassisme sal vir die 21ste eeu wee swat kommunisme vir die 20ste was: ’n bron van geweld”.

Die Nobelpryswenner J.M. Coetzee is ook van rassisme beskuldig weens sy roman Disgrace waarin hy die wetteloosheid en verval in gesondheids- en ander stelsels beskryf wat Suid-Afrika tans kenmerk. In ons land veral, het die beskuldiging van rassisme semanties leeg geraak weens die holle herhaling daarvan. Dit behou egter die potensiaal om presies die teenoorgestelde uitwerking te hê deur etniese en rasseverskille te beklemtoon, asook om almal te intimideer wat by die produksie en verspreiding van die geskrewe woord betrokke is.

Die oordrewe woede en verontwaardiging waaraan David Bullard en ander skrywers blootgestel is omdat hulle hetsy satiriese, hetsy waaragtige beskrywings van ons sosiale agteruitgang gepubliseer het, verteenwoordig ’n kommerwekkende verval in onverdraagsaamheid, wat gevaarlik sou wees om te ignoreer.

Ons doen ’n beroep op die Sunday Times om Bullard óf weer aan te stel óf aan hom ’n substantiewe wetlike rede vir sy afdanking te verskaf. Ongegronde beskuldigings van rassisme behoort nooit grond vir afdanking te wees nie.

Dr. Dan Roodt
President, Pretoria PEN

Kontak: Dan Roodt president@pretoriapen.co.za

ENGLISH:

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA PEN ON 14 APRIL 2008

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ‘RACISM’

We, members of the Pretoria PEN, a society of writers, journalists and publishers, as well as affiliated members of International PEN, condemn the dismissal of the popular Sunday Times columnist, David Bullard. Bullard was fired as a columnist for writing a whimsical, satirical piece about a fictitious South African past without Western influence. This was considered to be “racist”. He has now been subjected to violent public criticism as well as threats of being charged with hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission.

Unfounded accusations of racism and hate speech go to the core of the new assault on freedom of expression in our time. The increasing number and intensity of such accusations are a sign that South Africa is sliding into a climate of mediaeval witch hunts against authors and journalists who refuse to abide by the mindless politically correct platitudes demanded by their masters. They are required to gloss over, or to censor, the many problems afflicting our society, such as lawlessness, extreme violence, corruption and a declining infrastructure with potholes in our roads and regular power failures.

Our state president has just declared that “there is no crisis in Zimbabwe”. This is just another manifestation of the increasingly Orwellian scenario in South Africa that forces us to participate in the construction of a false and sanitised reality. Any form of real criticism or honesty is stigmatised as “racism”. As Alain Finkielkraut perceptively observed in 2005, “the lofty idea of ‘the war on racism’ was gradually turning into a hideously false ideology. And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century: a source of violence.”

Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee too, has been accused of racism for writing his novel Disgrace, in which he depicts the lawlessness and decline in health and other services characterising South Africa today. In our country, especially, the accusation of racism has become semantically empty by rote repetition. However, it retains the potential for achieving precisely the opposite effect by emphasizing ethnic and racial divisions, as well as intimidating everyone engaged in the production and dissemination of the written word.

The exaggerated rage and indignation meted out to David Bullard and other writers for publishing either satirical or truthful accounts of our social decline, represents a worrying slide into intolerance, which we shall ignore at our peril.

We call upon the Sunday Times, either to reinstate Bullard, or to give him a substantive legal reason for his dismissal. Spurious accusations of racism should never be grounds for dismissal.

Dr. Dan Roodt
President, Pretoria PEN

Contact: Dan Roodt president@pretoriapen.co.za

André P. Brink se stellings oor geweldsmisdaad

MEDIAVERKLARING UITGEREIK DEUR PRETORIA-PEN N.A.V. ANDRÉ P. BRINK SE UITSPRAAK OOR GEWELDSMISDAAD

(English translation to follow)

Die Pretoria-PEN wil André P. Brink gelukwens met die uitgesproke standpunt teen geweldsmisdaad wat hy in die Franse koerant Le Monde gepubliseer het. Ongebreidelde geweld is ‘n element wat elke Suid-Afrikaner (ook skrywers) raak en kan nie langer geduld word nie.

Ons het reeds die Skrywers-in- aanhoudingkomite e van Internasionale PEN in kennis gestel van die gevaar waarin skrywers, vertalers en oernaliste in Suid-Afrika verkeer, met spesifieke verwysing na die moorde op prof. Lisbé Smuts-Smith en mnr. Louw Rabie, broer van Jan Rabie, asook ‘n skryfster van Prins Albert wat ‘n tyd gelede verkrag is maar waarvan die naam nie bekendgemaak is nie.

PEN is die oudste internasionale skrywersorganisasie wat wêreldwyd ongeveer 15 000 skrywers, vertalers en senior joernaliste verteenwoordig.

André P. Brink is heeltemal korrek as hy die Suid-Afrikaanse regering van “manipulasie van statistieke” beskuldig. Elke Suid-Afrikaner ken vriende of familie wat reeds deur die misdadige moordbendes vermoor is. Vyftig mense sterf elke dag weens misdaad in Suid-Afrika, meer as wat in die Irak-oorlog omkom. Die anargie wat in ons land heers, druis in teen alle beskaafde norme.

Die Pretoria-PEN is dit ook eens met André P. Brink as hy sê: “Om in ons jong demokrasie stil te bly, is die beste manier om die tragiese einde van daardie demokrasie te veroorsaak.”

By gebrek aan ‘n doeltreffende parlementêre opposisie, rus daar ‘n sware
taak op die skouers van skrywers en intellektuele om demokratiese
waardes soos spraakvryheid en die reg op lewe van verval te red. Ons
doen daarom ‘n beroep op skrywers van alle tale in Suid-Afrika, maar
veral Afrikaanse skrywers wie se familie en uitgebreide familie op plase
tans onder die gruwelikste omstandighede denkbaar doodgemartel en
uitgemoor word, om saam te staan teen geweld.

Ons leef onder ‘n gevoellose regering wat André P. Brink tereg as
“monsters” tipeer. Lewensverlies skeel hulle minder as die prestige van
die 2010-Wêreldsokkerbek er, oorsese reise en die vele partytjies wat met
sibaritiese luister aangebied word.

Ons leef in ‘n tydvak van Neroniese dekadensie in Suid-Afrika. Volgens
die pers het een ANC-amptenaar R96000 op ‘n middagete in ‘n duur
restaurant uitgegee.

Deur die geskiedenis het skrywers en digters meer Stoïsyns reg en
geregtigheid, asook die waarde van ‘n menselewe, verdedig. Nou meer as
ooit het ons nodig dat skrywers in hul edel stryd teen wreedheid en
geweld behoort te verenig.

Dan Roodt
President, Pretoria-PEN
kopié aan Internasionale PEN, Londen

Spraakvryheid word in Suid-Afrika bedreig

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA AFRIKAANS PEN CENTRE ON 14 AUGUST 2006

(AFRIKAANS HIERONDER)

FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT IN SOUTH AFRICA

We, authors, journalists, publishers and members of the Pretoria Afrikaans PEN Centre wish to express our utmost alarm at legislation currently being drafted by the ANC government with the clear intent to control the press and other printed media. Books, too, will be affected by the amendment to the Film and Publications Act, a censorship body, that has hitherto excluded the news media.

Most opposition political parties, as well as the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Media Institute of South Africa have already expressed their dismay at the new legislation currently before the cabinet. Mrs. Helen Suzman, the liberal politician and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, last week described the current measures as “devastating”. Mrs. Suzman has pointed out that “the apartheid government did not have general laws censoring the media except during states of emergency”.

If passed by the cabinet, the new legislation would therefore set South Africa back at least a hundred years as far as freedom of expression is concerned. We cannot allow this to happen.

We therefore call upon other PEN Centres worldwide to condemn the current attempt by the ANC government to control the written word in South Africa and for members to write letters to local South African embassies protesting against the planned erosion of our hard-won democratic freedom to write and to publish.

The practice by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and certain sycophantic pro-government newspapers, notably the Johannesburg daily “Beeld”, to keep blacklists of writers and commentators who are not allowed to voice their opinion or be quoted on radio or in the pages of such newspapers, must be seen as the precursor to the current legislation which will muzzle us all. We call upon the SABC, “Beeld” and others to stop this policy which is only befitting a banana republic and to allow free debate to continue on the many difficult issues facing our society, notably corruption, greed and the inordinate levels of criminal violence in South Africa.

In this respect, we are angered and saddened at the recent gang rape of a 70-year old Afrikaans historian and writer in the Cape village of Prince Albert, as reported in a Sunday newspaper. The woman, whose identity is being protected, was dragged out of bed at two o’clock in the morning and repeatedly raped by three youths who seem to prey on the elderly as they had previously assaulted a 93 year-old man in the same town.

How can one practise the writer’s craft in a society where censorship hangs over us like the sword of Damocles and senior female authors are raped by youth gangs?

Contact person: Dan Roodt, Acting Chairman, Pretoria PEN

cc. International PEN, South African PEN, Cape Town

MEDIAVRYSTELLING OP 14 AUGUSTUS 2006 DEUR PRETORIA-AFRIKAANSE PEN

SPRAAKVRYHEID WORD IN SUID-AFRIKA BEDREIG

Ons, skrywers, joernaliste, uitgewers en lede van die Pretoria-Afrikaanse PEN-sentrum wil hiermee ons uiterste kommer uitspreek oor huidige wetgewing wat deur die ANC-regering opgestel word met die duidelike bedoeling om die pers en ander gedrukte media te beheer. Boeke sal ook deur die wysiging van die Wet op beheer oor films en publikasies geraak word.

Die meeste opposisiepartye sowel as die Instituut vir Spraakvryheid en die Media-instituut van Suid-Afrika het reeds hul verbasing oor die nuwe wetgewing wat tans voor die kabinet dien, uitgespreek. Mev. Helen Suzman, die liberale politikus en veteraan anti-apartheidsaktivis, het die maatreëls verlede week as “verwoestend” beskryf. Mev. Suzman het aangetoon dat “die apartheidsregering nie oor algemene wette beskik het om die media te sensureer nie behalwe gedurende noodtoestande.”

Indien die kabinet die nuwe wetgewing goedkeur, sal dit Suid-Afrika dus ‘n honderd jaar terugsit sover dit spraakvryheid betref. Ons mag nie toelaat dat dit gebeur nie.

Daarom doen ons ‘n beroep op ander PEN-sentra wêreldwyd om die huidige poging deur die ANC-regering te verdoem om die geskrewe woord in Suid-Afrika te beheer en om briewe aan plaaslike Suid-Afrikaanse ambassades te skryf waarin hulle beswaar maak teen die beplande aftakeling van ons demokratiese vryheid om te skryf en te publiseer.

Die praktyk van die Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie en sekere sikofantiese pro-regeringskoerante, waaronder die Johannesburgse dagblad “Beeld”, om swartlyste van skrywers en meningsvormers aan te hou wat nie toegelaat word om hul mening uit te spreek of om oor die radio of in die blaaie van sulke koerante aangehaal te mag word nie, moet gesien word as die voorloper tot die huidige wetgewing wat ons almal gaan muilband. Ons doen ‘n beroep op die SAUK, “Beeld” en ander om hierdie beleid te staak wat by ‘n piesangrepubliek tuishoort en om vrye debat toe te laat oor die vele netelige kwessies wat ons in die gesig staar, waaronder korrupsie, gierigheid en die uitermate hoë vlakke van geweldsmisdaad in Suid-Afrika.

In dié verband voel ons tegelyk woedend en treurig oor die onlangse bendeverkragting van ‘n 70-jarige Afrikaanse geskiedskrywer in die Kaapse dorp Prins Albert, soos wat in ‘n Sondagkoerant berig is. Die vrou wie se identiteit tans beskerm word, is twee-uur in die oggend uit die bed gesleep, waarna sy herhaaldelik deur drie jeugdiges verkrag is. Die jeugdiges maak oënskynlik jag op bejaardes want hulle het voorheen ‘n 93-jarige man in dieselfde dorp aangerand.

Hoe kan ‘n mens die skryfkuns beoefen in ‘n samelewing waar sensuur soos die swaard van Damokles oor ons hang en waar senior skryfsters deur jeugbendes verkrag word?

Dan Roodt

Waarnemende voorsitter, Pretoria-PEN

Kopié aan Internasionale PEN, SA PEN, Kaapstad