ANC raps vote rebels for 'ill discipline'
Johannesburg - The conduct of ANC MPs Ben Turok and Gloria Borman in not voting for the protection of state information bill in Parliament "smacks of ill-discipline", the party said on Wednesday.
The fact that the two did not vote would be handled by the party internally, the ANC said in a statement.
"The conduct of comrades like Ben Turok in raising their objections by abstaining and using the media smacks of ill-discipline and will be handled internally by the ANC."
It was reported on Wednesday that Turok, one of the ANC's leading free-thinkers and a veteran who played a big part in the writing of the 1955 Freedom Charter, slipped out of the Assembly as voting time approached.
Turok felt that more time was needed on the controversial legislation.
"It does affect the democracy we want and the constitution, so the ANC itself must go through an elaborate consideration of it," he told The Star newspaper.
"I made my decision as a matter of principle. I felt I could not participate in the voting," he added.
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said: "This falls outside the normal conduct of a senior ANC member like Ben Turok."
Borman was the sole ANC MP who abstained from voting for the bill.
In an interview with the Cape Argus, Borman said she abstained because she believed that the fight against corruption could be hindered by the bill.
"First of all, I’m an ANC member and very proud of that fact. I feel that the ANC is totally committed to fighting corruption, and that is certainly my own passion too," the newspaper quoted her as saying.
"In the end, I abstained because I believe our fight against corruption can be hindered by this... I couldn’t vote for it, and couldn’t vote against it, so abstaining seemed the best route.
"I do not believe that this bill is the evil piece of legislation that it’s made out to be. The media - which is in a very powerful position - has not given it fair coverage," said Borman.
When asked if she expected disciplinary action by the ANC, Borman said: "Yes, I probably will".
Khoza said if the members were unsure or had objections there were internal channels they could have used.
Any Member of Parliament could have approached the ANC parliamentary study group, the chief whip, or the ANC caucus to raise the matter.
The party had not discussed what type of action would be taken against the two, said Khoza.
On Tuesday, the ANC majority drove the contentious protection of state information bil through the National Assembly, despite vehement protest in and outside Parliament.
The so-called "secrecy bill" was adopted with 229 to 107 votes by the 400-member chamber, and two abstentions.
The other abstention was that of Stanley Ntapane of the United Democratic Movement.
There were 34 ANC MPs absent from the National Assembly on Tuesday during the vote.
The ANC said it was convinced that the bill would play a constructive role in South Africa's constitutional democracy.
"We [ANC] believe that the construct of the legislation is in keeping with international practice and that it is in the interest of all South Africans that information that is in the hands of the state must be handled with care and proper accountability as is the norm all over the world," the party said.
It welcomed the bill but also noted the objections by some organisations, opposition parties and the media.
"It is on record that the ANC delayed the tabling of the bill to allow further consultations. These have resulted in 123 changes being effected in the bill," the ANC said.
It was satisfied that the public and civil society organisations were consulted and that it would have been more objective for the media and commentators to acknowledge that there was agreement on the bill except for the public interest clause.
"It is therefore mischievous not to highlight this reality," the ANC said.