Cast one’s mind back to the mid-1980s when President PW Botha was at the height of National Party power. The country was caught up in a “total strategy” against “the communist onslaught”, the townships were patrolled by the SA Defence Force and the ruling party appeared to be unassailable.

Who would have thought that by 1994, all that madness would have been swept away and that by 2006, the NP would whimper off the political stage altogether, its tail between its collective legs as it sold itself to the highest bidder, the ANC.

Pieter-Dirk Uys, in his latest show Desperate First Ladies, does a remarkable impersonation not only of PW – of whom he is a mirror image – but also Tannie Elize, the bougainvillea-bright first lady who seemed so permanent a part of our ridiculous political theatre of the time. All that absurdity was gone, or so we thought.

We then had information and security legislation which rivals the Protection of Information Bill – which is about to rush headlong on to our statute books.

Remember those pages of the Weekly Mail and the Vrye Weekblad with large blocks of type blacked out? Remember the states of emergency and the arrogance with which the NP ruled the roost? Remember the government, which sent white males to the army for two years to patrol townships and fight a “border” war against so-called communists?

We seem to have done a 360º circle since those days. The difference is that we have a democracy, but the ruling party does not trust that system. It senses, one suspects, a slippage of power – something which was always at the back of the NP’s mind. Why else would it pass legislation which effectively will allow public officials to keep state information secret?

Already the Department of Transport refuses to release tender documents of a black economic empowerment (BEE) company that won a R13.5 million contract to organise a conference earlier this year.

Omega Investment Research, run by former NP politician Denis Worrall, put in a bid for less than R7m. Despite many promises to release the winning tender documents, this has not happened.

Although declaring information secret is supposedly limited to the security departments in terms of the bill, other departments may opt in.

One is left with an uneasy feeling about the appointment of the chief justice as well. Why is a relatively junior justice – a self-styled intellectual – getting the job when the Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is clearly better qualified?

Then there is the intraparty civil war in the ANC, with the police protecting ANC headquarters Luthuli House against the bussed-in mob of the ANC Youth League during the Julius Malema hearings. At the height of the revolt both President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe were abroad.

Let us fast-track to 2014 after the next national election. One suspects that even with the financial clout of ill-gotten gains – through Chancellor House – the ANC is certain to shrink. If Malema is still part of the ANC leadership, it will hasten that shrinkage as urban voters, in particular, won’t stand for his populist grandstanding.

If someone like Moeletsi Mbeki is parachuted into the leadership of the DA, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that it could double its vote to 30 percent.

Until then the ANC will attempt to shut down information channels and public debate. But like the blacked-out words in the Weekly Mail, the public will wonder what is being hidden from them.