THE proposed ban on the advertising of liquor is another example of how the state wishes to play an increasing nannying role in the private lives of its citizens.
What our society needs is an efficient education system that produces strong, independent thinkers who are capable of making responsible decisions about alcohol.
Unlike tobacco, which is harmful however small the dose, and which impacts on non-smokers who involuntarily inhale “second-hand smoke”, alcohol cannot be stereotyped as bad for the health of the consumer or those in the vicinity of the consumer.
There are many studies that show that the moderate consumption of wine, for example, reduces heart disease and leads to a longer, healthier life.
The overwhelming majority of alcohol consumers are responsible, do not drink and drive, and do not destroy their families through abuse.
The government believes that it can reduce the damage caused by the few abusers by treating the whole of society as offenders.
It should ask itself why substances such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana, which are banned and are certainly not advertised, continue to be used. The answer is that the social causes of such use — chiefly poor self-esteem, failed education and lack of employment — have never been adequately addressed.
If the government focused on doing its job — providing proper education, creating an environment for rapid employment growth, and reducing organised crime, it would radically reduce alcoholism. Banning advertisements will have no effect on alcohol abuse.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s decision to sue the Sunday Times and its cartoonist, Zapiro, over a cartoon, sheds more light on his jaundiced understanding of press freedom. Zuma’s complaint is that the cartoon was “degrading” and left him feeling “humiliated” because it suggested he was about to rape a figure representing Lady Justice and that his image suffered.
The most immediate question is: exactly how did his reputation suffer? After the publication of this cartoon, Zuma went on to become president of South Africa, which suggests that his image was, if anything, rapidly on the rise in the eyes of his political peers and the public.
Whatever revulsion Zuma might have felt at the cartoon, the reading public knew it was a metaphor for how he dodged the day in court on corruption charges he had once ardently wished for, and not an actual depiction of rape.
Only the most determined and humourless political hack would fail to make the distinction between a cartoon metaphor and reality.
In Zuma’s mind — and in those of the ANC’s less enlightened cadres — the press must “respect” the president who, according tothis view, occupies some sort of special status in society, akin to that of an unelected, benign monarch.
Unfortunately for them, we live under a constitution where the president enjoys no such privileges. In our democracy, the president is a servant of the people, and he must be held to account for the performance of government.
Of course, the president can earn respect through his actions, but he can lose this respect just as quickly by failing to live up to the public’s expectations.
One thing is certain: respect cannot be earned by attempting to intimidate a cartoonist into producing flattering drawings through a string of vexatious lawsuits. If anything, the lawsuit degrades and humiliates Zuma, showing just how thin-skinned, humourless and image-conscious he is beneath his devil-may-care exterior.
What Zuma is asking the courts to do is to decide just how cutting satire should be before it is banned from publication.
Would a cartoon depicting Zuma twisting Lady Justice’s arm behind her back be acceptable? Would a slap across the cheek be going too far? Perhaps an image of Zuma and Lady Justice earnestly discussing his corruption case over steaming coffee would make the grade?
Zuma’s thin skin should not be sufficient grounds for threatening the freedom of expression. He has been driving the ruling party’s demands for a media tribunal, openly contradicting other senior party members who have attempted to shelve the idea.
And now, in what will amount to the most ludicrous action by a head of state since P W Botha ruled, he will go to court to whimper about a cartoonist.