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Journalists Are Now The Thin Blue Line Between Us And Anarchy

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Journalists Are Now The Thin Blue Line Between Us And Anarchy

It’s been a decade since 34 miners were unceremoniously gunned down on a hill by Lonmin’s platinum mine near Rustenburg, in what has gone down in history as the “Marikana Massacre”.

Did we talk about this at the dinner table? Mention it around the virtual water cooler. Say “Oh my gosh, can you believe it’s been ten years since those miners were murdered?” to our friends and acquaintances when we bumped into them at the shop.

No. Collective memories are forgotten, deplorable.

But some media remembered. The truth about the Marikana Massacre would never have been known if it weren’t for journalists. In the tireless investigation, a brave team of researchers captained by Kate Alexander and journalist Greg Marinovich laid bare the truth.

In 2014, a documentary – Miners Shot Down – shed further light on the attack on the defenceless miners. Broadcast around the world, it was produced by Rehad Desai, Anita Khanna and Brian Tilley and was a visual showcase of the events on that day a decade ago. It is still a blot on our country.

Sadly, most journalists were taken in, running the narrative spewed out by the police that the miners attacked first. This was not the case, as shown by brave journalists who went back and recreated what really happened.

Need for the truth

The general media has become lazy, running whatever statements are put out in a bid to be first with the news and bolster ratings. Thanks to the investigative journalism of people like AmaBhungane, the real story saw the light of day. We just hope that people take the time to read it.

Frankly, the police should be thoroughly investigating instead of covering up infractions. However, they are hobbled, like many state departments, by a lack of money. Maybe if it wasn’t stolen, we’d all be in a better situation.

Whistle-blowers like Athol Williams who outed the fact that Bain was effectively trying to steal the South African Revenue Service – an institution that was previously functional and effective – are also not protected. He’s had to flee overseas to ensure his safety.

We see too many instances in which people get away with bagging deals for government institutions with no action from the authorities. There are at least three such cases that have come to light recently thanks to investigative journalists instead of the authorities who should be holding them accountable.

In one case, a husband and wife (a call centre agent and a sound engineer) got a R30 million deal in which they were awarded a flurry of contracts in just a month.

Recently, the Zondo Commission laid bare several cases of corruption, many of which had previously been exposed by journalists working hard to bring us the truth. Yet, nothing has been done yet. We wait. Not with bated breath though.

No action

There is a massive gap between what journalists do to highlight these issues, and the judicial system taking action. Even if there is a court case, those found guilty get away with it and do not end up facing the consequences of their actions. We hardly ever hear of money being paid back, or jail terms.

If people do miraculously end up behind bars, they do not hang around in prison for long before some medical ailment gets them miraculously released. Despite the red tape that most prisoners must deal with to be released on medical parole, if you have political connections, it is very easy.

Jacob Zuma’s ‘medical’ release can probably be attributed to the riots that plagued many parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal last year, which saw massive damage being wreaked on the economy.

In this information age when we are overwhelmed by data, we all need to take the time to understand what is happening with our country, the complete disregard for the rule of law that penetrates every aspect of our lives – from government theft and breaking rules to ordinary citizens speeding.

More importantly, there need to be consequences for those who break the law. We need to see prosecuting authorities such as the NPA acting without hindrance, the courts putting people behind bars for the proper amount of time, and those who interfere with the process brought to book and everyone serving jail time appropriate to their offence.

Without such action, this beautiful country will spiral further into a black hole from which it will be difficult to escape. Those with skills, who can pass these on to people who desperately need jobs, will leave. Already, we face greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force over inadequate controls, which will devastate any ability to bring in investment needed to grow GDP.

The time to act was yesterday, and we now must fix past blunders. With haste!