Bullard Fired: What happened to Freedom of Speech?

David Bullard is fired for being offensive in his last column, they say. But, methinks Sunday Times Editor, Mondli Makhanya, had some outside pressures to send the irreverent Bullard packing. Perhaps one of our politicians had a sense of humour failure when he read the last column Bullard wrote. Who knows? Makhanya does, but his approach is deny-deny-deny.

 

The truth about Bullard is that you either love him or you hate him. There is nothing tepid about his Out to Lunch column. He does not pull any punches where the failure of government to deliver is concerned. He openly points out corruption, he bravely calls the Greedy, greedy and he plainly names the Incompetent, incompetent. He irreverently mocks the (exaggerated) political correctness of South Africans – the lengths they are prepared to go to prove that they are not racist: how they walk on eggs when having to choose words to describe people on the basis of colour. With Bullard there is NO holy cow. This time he may have stepped on the tail of somebody else’s.

But is that not what freedom of press is all about?

 

In Zimbabwe, journalists are not allowed to write things as they see or experience it. Their opinions have to meekly reflect that of the powers that be. Here I have always believed that life is different. Even if I don’t agree with the opinions aired by a columnist (and columnists are meant to be opinionated), I still respect that opinion for what it is – an opinion. With Bullard being fired because he held opinions that are, as Mondli Makhanya put it: “extremely, extremely, extremely offensive and totally against the values of the Sunday Times and the country.”, I cannot help but feel more than just a little concerned.

 

Must columnists now bow to the opinion of the paper they write for and by what (or whose) authority does Mr. Makhanya speak on behalf of the country? His comment on 702 reeked like the typical comments made by Anonymous Editor in the Zimbabwean Herald. (Refer my third to last blog entry).

 

Given the set of circumstances, does it mean that we in South Africa are now in a situation where freedom of speech is conditional and that having an opinion is limited? Do journalists and columnists alike now have to kowtow to ‘those-in-high-places-who-could-take-offence” in order to retain their jobs?

 

If this is the case, and I have no evidence to prove the contrary, a very sad day has dawned indeed.

 

Bullard for President

I don’t buy the Sunday Times. For one, 95% of it is a waste of good trees; secondly, the bulk of the stories it contains, only serve to aggravate my usual Sunday Blues; and finally, the worthwhile bits and pieces in the Sunday Times offered free of charge by your local Wimpy or Greenfields, can quite easily be read in between ordering and receiving your favourite high-cholesterol breakfast.I am a habitual Sunday-breakfast-somewhere person. So, true to form, I headed for Greenfields and hauled the Sunday Times from the haphazardly stacked newspaper stand. The first item to draw my eye happened to be David Bullard’s Out to Lunch column. The heading was: “You will find a really low road at the end of this rainbow.”With my interest sufficiently piqued, I read the entire article. It was somewhat ascetic, but delightfully so. You can read the Out to Lunch article by David Bullard here: http://www.thetimes.co.za/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=735313

Yes, once upon a time in Never-Never-Land, I too was a starry eyed idealist, taken in by the gift of the gab of our venerated ANC politicians. And yes, reptiles happen to be an apt description – it takes cold-bloodedness to sit, with arms crossed, watching our primary healthcare coming to its knees, the school system failing, the poor becoming increasingly poorer and denying the majority of the HIV-positive anti-retroviral treatment. (No, oh portly one, beetroot and garlic don’t do the same job). The only difference between said politicians and reptiles is that reptiles have backbones. Considering the inability of the powers that be to take a stand – their attitude to Mugabe’s genocidal, despotic methods of governing Zimbabwe, immediately comes to mind – probably makes them the only invertebrate reptile species on the planet.

I cannot help but wonder, whether all of this has something to do with a total and utter lack of responsibility and a complete inability to take ownership of issues. Blame the colonialists, blame the apartheid regime and now, blame the US economy’s influenza. In fact, while you are at it, blame everyone else. In the current regime the proverbial buck is passed on and on and on and …. There is no “The Buck Stops Here” sign on our esteemed president’s desk, I am sure.

Then, what are we South Africans to do? We could up and leave like many others, or we could spend the next 40 minus 14 years struggling for positive change. The choice is personal. I, for one, am going to stick around for a while longer. The stars have not completely faded from my eyes – even though they are much, much dimmer than before.

Perhaps – by some miracle – the ANC politicians will heed David Bullard’s words of wisdom to stop treating the beloved country as their personal fiefdoms. Perhaps, I might add, the ANC government will come to realize that they are not – and I repeat NOT – a liberation movement any longer. They are the government now, and the only things they would do well to liberate themselves from, are the claws of greed and the blinkers on their eyes.