Today In Fact, 12 June

I think I was responsible for the second state of emergency being declared on this day in 1986. I was working as a social worker in the Cape Flats and there was this “Let South Africa Speak” campaign. Various organizations affiliated to the United Democratic Front asked me as the token whitey to go a report back to them what this campaign was all about.

Now some of you may recall that in 1986 South Africa was in turmoil. Landmines. Grenade attacks, arrest and so on were the order of the day. The Cape flats was no exception.

So on the 12th June 1986 I rode my little green moped up to the Stellenbosch med-school campus in Bellville and was ushered into a hall with about 80 assorted folk sitting in a semi-circle. I noticed a police general, a couple of senior female police officers, an army general and Piet Koornhof, then the Minister of Cooperation and Development.

The meeting started with introductions and then went on with long speeches. The Police General, I forget his name, made this long speech where he said that 90% of South Africans were for “law and order” and that only 10% were “trouble-makers”. I was asked to respond. I stood up and asked the general if he really believed what he had just said? That if this was true, why then, give us democracy and the National Party would win a general election hands down. There was an uncomfortable silence. I then said with as much ominous gravitas in my voice as I could muster; “No. Don’t give us anything. We will take democracy and this country from you!” I saw then real fear and was it hate in the police general’s eyes?

The meeting broke up in turmoil after that with threats and shouts. I left hurriedly but just before riding out of the campus, one of Koornhof’s aides approached me and gave me Piet Koornhof’s card saying that should I ever consider a role in politics I should give him a call.

I threw the card away. At midnight the second state of emergency was declared in South Africa. This time it was a blanket ordinance that lasted through to 1990 and in which over 50,000 people were detained and many disappeared. I never got to report back to the UDF cadres on the Cape Flats about the “Let South Africa Speak Campaign”. We were too busy ducking and diving.

Things have changed since those scary days. In those days different groups were able to keep pretty much to themselves. The state securocrats were able to believe that the troubles on the streets were just a few troublemakers and the democrats were able to believe that we could take democracy and the country.

It is more scary today. Today we have the free flow of information. We have securocrats using all this information to spy on us. We have militant transparency activists taking state secrets and opening them up for public view. There are today no secrets, no private lives. Everything is public, all the private stuff of our lives is available to the public gaze and to the prying eyes of the state. We live today in a global panopticon, a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham where all prisoners are watched all the time.

This is how I remember God being described to me. He sees everything we do. Now it’s not just an all loving and forgiving God who sees everything we do but our peers and various state-run agencies who have access to this information.

– Douglas Racionzer (