PEN South Africa, a sister-centre to English PEN, has published a statement condemning the ‘breakdown in democracy’ in the South African Parliament last week. Riot police entered the South African parliament on 14 November and fought with opposition MPs, following the publication of a report into an alleged scandal of misspent public funds by President Jacob Zuma.
The statement, co-signed by PEN South Africa president Margie Orford and vice-presidents Mandla Langa and Raymond Louw, condemns the manner in which the Speaker of the House attempted to ‘prevent the people of South Africa being able to observe the temper and dissatisfaction of a large group of MPs at the way Parliamentary affairs were being conducted’.
The authors also draw attention to the manipulation of TV reporting of the proceedings, saying that:
‘… the camera pictures were cut, thus preventing citizens of the country from viewing the actual proceedings in the House, the unruliness of MPs and alleged assaults by police. PEN South Africa points out that the manipulation and censoring of Parliament’s TV broadcasts has occurred on more than one occasion in recent weeks.’
The statement concludes:
‘PEN SA is deeply alarmed that these are deliberate and serious inroads on freedom of expression and transparency, core values which form the basis of our constitutional democracy. …
A dark day indeed for South Africa and its democratic order, and an ominous portend of a government favouring censorship and ranged against transparency.’
English PEN joins our colleagues in expressing dismay at these events, and calls on the government of South Africa to ensure that elected politicians are never prevented from expressing dissent and dissatisfaction in Parliament.
Photo: National Assembly of South Africa by Kaihsu Tai on Wikimedia Commons