ANC won't budge on info bill

2011-08-31 10:22

Cape Town - Opposition parties urged the ANC on Tuesday to strike a provision from the protection of information bill that would allow intelligence agents to classify any part of their work, but the ruling party refused.

The issue is considered critical because, opponents say, it would widen the scope of the state secrets legislation and risk creating a culture of secrecy.

It arose on Tuesday when lawmakers ran through definitions in the bill, which they are trying to finalise by Friday.

The current draft criminalises the disclosure of any state security matter, and defines it as including "any matter that is dealt with by the agency or which relates to the functions of agency or to a relationship existing between any person and the agency".


Mario Oriani Ambrosini, from the IFP, told colleagues: "I propose that we take it out." ANC MP Annelise van Wyk said the ruling party believed the proposal should be rejected.

Oriani Ambrosini found succour from his DA colleagues, with Dene Smuts pleading that MPs at least redraft this definition to say that only classified information relating to the operations of the intelligence services may be kept secret.

"Otherwise it flies in the face of the whole bill which now deals with classification to protect the national security," she said.

Smuts was referring to a hard-won agreement reached last week that only information that could put at risk the security of the republic if revealed may be kept secret.

Her colleague David Maynier asked that the issue be flagged for further discussion when MPs came to clause 52 of the bill, which prescribes a prison sentence of up to three years for disclosing a state security matter.

The Right 2 Know campaign said on Friday the clause risks undoing the gains towards transparency made in deliberations on the bill in recent weeks.

It called on lawmakers to "limit secrecy to strictly-defined national security matters and no more".

Public interest defence

It is one of the biggest remaining sticking points on the draft act, along with the absence of a public interest defence to spare journalists and whistleblowers who reveal secret information to expose wrongdoing being sent to prison.

On Friday, the Congress of SA Trade Unions again called on the ANC to allow for greater protection for whistleblowers.

On Tuesday, the Open Democracy Advice Centre submitted a legal opinion on the matter to the committee.

In it, senior advocate Colin Kahanovitz argued that the protection afforded to workers who expose wrongdoing by a sub-clause stating disclosure will not be a crime if sanctioned by the Protected Disclosures Act was insufficient.

He said the best way of protecting whistleblowers was to "narrowly tailor any criminal provision for disclosure which excludes expressly all possibilities of genuine whistleblowing from harm such as criminal prosecution".

"This is as the mere threat of prosecution creates a chilling effect on whistleblowing."

Possible Constitutional Court challenge

The ANC has made clear that it will not countenance a public interest defence and insiders say this could yet trigger a Constitutional Court challenge to the legislation.

An expected debate on the issue in the committee drafting the bill did not materialise on Tuesday, as MPs tried to resolve confusion about the appeal process to be followed if the minister of state security refuses a request to declassify information.

They agreed that, in cases where the requester argues that declassification is urgent, he or she would not be obliged to lodge an appeal to the ministry but could go straight to court.

The opposition and activists remain unhappy about the ANC's reluctance to appoint an independent authority to hear appeals that are not urgent.

They argue that this is necessary because the courts are too costly to be a recourse for the majority of South Africans.

  • RonJeremy - 2011-08-31 10:31

    Typical ANC, here come's their communist ways to censor the media. Just like communist China where the people have no democratic right to speak out against the regime. The ANC are becoming a rogue state.

      Pictureof - 2011-08-31 10:36

      Since Mbeki got removed we have refedined rogue state. China looks like bliss compared to what we face.

      onetickie - 2011-08-31 13:41

      They won't budge because they want to stop people hearing, knowing stuff like whats happening inside & outside Luthuli House. They want the people of SA to live like Gadaffi made his people live - in ignorance and darkness. But whats happened in Libya can well happen here, sooner than we expect and particularly "if" the ANC is brave enough to expel the jARSE and his chums - but doubt the ANC has the guts to do that.

      onetickie - 2011-08-31 18:35

      Oops! meant to say no doubt the government HASN'T GOT THE GUTS TO DO THAT.

  • RonJeremy - 2011-08-31 10:33

    Those in powerful positions in South Africa must take this further to the Constitutional Court as it's no democratic and against the constitution. Just fight this through and get this piece of toilet-paper legislation kicked out !!! It's rubbish!

      johan.d.plessis - 2011-08-31 13:06

      ... and Jacob Zuma appoints the Chief Justice and who-ever else in the Constitutional Court ... to make sure all their Bills pass. No checks and balances left in SA as suppose to in any democracy. We went from the best written constitution in the world to a JOKE.

  • Clinton - 2011-08-31 10:40

    Our right to freedom of speech...The Communist ANC government will silence the other parties so they can squander our state funds at their own will. RSA is going down fast and we are no better off, even with uncle Bob

  • Jedi knight - 2011-08-31 10:46

    Oz ,here we come. Advice given by ministers, I am taking it.. Cheers..

  • Worker - 2011-08-31 10:54

    Back to the old days - the Nats certainly taught the ANC a lot, but it's a pity the ANC did not learn how to build a strong economy from them. Now we will be in ZUMbabwe - a deMOCKery !

  • willieman - 2011-08-31 10:54

    Civil society need to resist this primitive laws

  • GypseyAnn - 2011-08-31 10:56

    This is very serious. Once more the government is making decisions that affect its citizens on matters which we have a right to know. Back to the good old days it seems where we have to eat what is dished out to us.

  • IC1 - 2011-08-31 11:00

    This is being done in anticipation of "Bubble butt" taking over from zuma

      RonJeremy - 2011-08-31 11:03

      Blubberguts Malema and his tealady Floyd

  • RickyC - 2011-08-31 11:01

    Maybe I am a bit slow here but surly if this is challaged in the con court they would find in favour of whomever due to the freedom of information clause?????

      RonJeremy - 2011-08-31 11:04

      Exactly, now we just need leaders and MONEY to take this through ConCourt and get it thrown out. If we fight it, it will fall.

  • Agent - 2011-08-31 11:10

    Once again democracy has two side ,BLACK & white.

  • TDK1 - 2011-08-31 11:11

    Bloody Arrogant National Corruptiion

  • TDK1 - 2011-08-31 11:14

    Concourt should be empowered to be able to step outright in such extreme cases without any application being filed in future.

  • rustic - 2011-08-31 11:15

    Concourt here we come is it? Just lets hope Judge Moegoe Moegoe does not preside. I won't won't emigrate. I will fight.

  • OBZERVER - 2011-08-31 11:27

    Perhaps we should get together and bur something down. It seems to work for the ANCYL. Or perhaps we should get those Hacker guys to Hack the crap out of every government server. Something needs to be done!!!

      The lost Emperor - 2011-08-31 14:13

      We don't burn things or throw stones, our previous generations have moved past that millennia ago when they invented tools and clothes. Hacking government isn't necessary. The password is probably "password"

  • Brad - 2011-08-31 11:56

    It is all linked. Now you understand why Zuma would like to appoint a JUNIOR Chief of Justice so he can be the puppet!

      rustic - 2011-08-31 12:17

      Exactly, Brad.

  • umlaut - 2011-08-31 12:04

    Can the experts tell us if it is possible to lodge this law at the Constitutional court for investigation immediately after it has been forced through? The only thing left then for South African citizens is to actually find out those secrets they want to hide and to publish it, and those that publish it will go and sit in jail. When the jails are overflowing we can ask the international community for new sanctions against this regime if their secrets are of the criminal type.

      umlaut - 2011-08-31 12:11

      And if an objection is lodged with the concourt must this law be 'frozen' until the concourt has ruled on it or can this new dictatorship carry on and apply their 'laws' until the concourt stops the law.???

      umlaut - 2011-08-31 12:17

      "....any matter that is dealt with by the agency or which relates to the functions of agency..." Did they define what an agency is? Does that include the police force--- as an agency??--- UH ...UH...!!!

      umlaut - 2011-08-31 12:34

      The anc has probably got a long list ready and as the bill is forced through and signed on Friday they will register the secrets and immediately start to enforce this. We can then then call it South Africa's Black Friday.

  • The lost Emperor - 2011-08-31 13:57

    The "New South Africa" is beginning to look a lot like the "Old South Africa" - except for the fact that the Old South Africa had a maintained infrastructure, effective police force, and a stable economy.

  • FM150 - 2011-08-31 16:54

    Information bill, nationalitazion of mines, farms ect. and the AU? Sounds like the Soviet Union coming to Africa(South of the Sahara i must add)! ooh i might of started a conspiracy!hehe

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