Imagine you are stopped in the middle of the street by a police officer who asks you if you have R10 in your pocket. You deny that you do, and the officer demands to search you. He thus finds R10 in your wallet. Imagine that this government employee demands to know why you have the R10 and what you plan to do with it. And if you refuse to disclose this information, the officer promptly arrests you for some kind of obstruction of justice.
This would be recognised by most people as a clear violation of your human right to privacy, and very few people would dare limit your freedom based on whatever your plans for the R10 were. Yet, multiply this amount by a million and change the setting from an anonymous street to an arbitrary line called a border (or an airport) and many of those same people would react in exactly the opposite manner. This is exemplified by the case of Fayrooz Saleh.
Saleh was stopped by SA Revenue Service officials at OR Tambo International Airport on her way to Hong Kong because she, according to the charges against her:
- Was carrying the American dollars equivalent of R9 million; and
- Could not/would not explain where she had gotten it.
The only difference here to our hypothetical R10 scenario is that she was stopped at an international border and the amount was greater. It is clear, then, that your human rights depend on such things as location and amount, which is ethically unjustifiable.
This indicates a general trend about how people view liberty.
We are often told that libertarians are not empathetic, but to truly believe in liberty for everyone requires the highest form of empathy: an understanding that others can exercise their rights in pursuit of ends and using means that make little sense to you or others. It requires not only putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but recognising that their shoe size might be different than yours.
Freedom is eroded when principle is conceded for the sake of convenience. Maybe Fayrooz was funding terrorists or sex slave trafficking, but that is not what she is being charged for. She is being charged for an ordinary act that each of us do every day far away from the border and, usually, for smaller amounts of money. It is the very definition of unjust.
What about the argument that she should have known what the law is and acted accordingly?
This is not an endorsement of the legislation’s righteousness. That same argument in future might be: “You should have known that government requires you invest 20% of your pension fund in government bonds, so why did you invest in gold?”
It does not matter whether you were aware or not aware of an unjust law. A law that robs you of a fundamental human right and is criminal. (It is the same argument made by evil men when they claim a woman who dresses a certain way or goes to a taxi rank is asking for rape.)
Legislation can be formalised crime — those 400 people in the National Assembly have the same capacity for criminality as the rest of us — and the South African state is in the process of claiming a victim in the form of a 22 year old student by the name of Fayrooz Saleh. We should not let this stand, not in my name.
Let us also not forget that the ruling party of South Africa has indicated their intention to nationalise the Reserve Bank and/or alter its mandate. This is a direct threat on its independence and, thus, anything denominated in rands will be subject to what we may call expropriation by inflation.
It is at this point in time when we need our right to trade and transfer currency overseas the most. I fear that if we fail to defend people like Fayrooz, all of us may soon be victims of the machine called government, which turns innocent people into criminals. Then, facing the spectre of hyperinflation, some of you might remember Fayrooz.