Aida 203 Mbeki ………

GOVERNING THE IGNORANT

BY the nature of things, it must be accepted that a very high percentage of ANC support, perhaps a majority, is either semi- or entirely illiterate. That this has its political advantages was admitted by Executive Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, addressing a recent panel of international politicians, diplomats and technologists on the political impact of the new Information Society.

Arranged by Time magazine, the symposium agreed that the world today is knitted together not just by the printed word, but by wires, cables and satellite lines all buzzing with breaking news and e-mail. What will that mean to the leaders of tomorrow?

Mr Mbeki argued that this must change the way leaders deal with their people. "Before," he said, "you had the politician as a professional, an expert who mediated understanding of events. Instant access to information reduces the mystique that surrounds a politician. You're not just a representative, elected for five years, sitting there doing your thing, and the natives are waiting for you to come to them." In fact, he observed, "it is easier to govern if the population is ignorant." (Time, 17.2.97).

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