Secret. Top Secret. Highly Confidential.

2010-07-24 12:41

A number of us depend on the government to provide good schools,

transport, social grants, hospital services and so on.

Sometimes these things

work; sometimes they don’t.

As ­citizens, it is our right to receive government

services and to ensure that government keeps its promise to make a better life

for all.

Often, this better life is an empty husk, a forgotten election

promise. Often, services don’t work. Recently, we reported that while Limpopo’s

government had granted tenders worth millions of rands to build boreholes, the

driest municipalities were still without ­water.

And, in Mpumalanga, we are

­investigating the companies that get ­preferential tenders while not providing

the services they are meant to.

The ANC Youth League is also in business, and one of president

Julius Malema’s ­companies is in partnership with a waste management firm that

has won massive ­tenders in Limpopo.

The firm is also being sued by government

for allegedly polluting the atmosphere with carcinogens and harming surrounding

communities.

If the Protection of Information Bill, which is now before

Parliament, is passed, there is a good chance that you will not know any of

this.

For democracy to work, an active and engaged citizenry must have access to

­information about how its public money is spent and what the government

does.

This is even more necessary in a country with a single dominant

party at the helm – the small opposition exercises few checks
and

balances.

When national security is threatened, ­information must be

protected, but the draft law threatens to throw a dragnet of secrecy over

society.

By proposing that public information at 140 different levels be

classified either as Secret, Top Secret or Confidential, the draft law can

become manna from heaven for bureaucrats who don’t want details of their

maladministration getting out.

All they would have to do is stamp “Secret”, “Top Secret” or

“Confidential” on ­forensic reports, investigations and lawsuit documents, and

we would never know why we get so little bang for the public buck.

As ­people

who work to bring information to ­public light, we in the media know that often

getting information out of reluctant civil ­servants is like drawing water from

a stone.

It will be impossible if this bill becomes law.

The Human Rights Commission told ­Parliament this week that the

Protection of Information Bill will “reinforce a culture of conservatism and

secrecy within the public service to the detriment of our nascent

democracy”.



Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.