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Asmal urges citizens to reject info bill

2011-06-15 21:20

Cape Town - Former minister Kader Asmal has urged South Africans to reject the protection of information bill and warned the ANC that rushing it through Parliament would destroy trust in the democratic process.

Asmal said he had hoped the weight of public opposition to the so-called "secrecy bill" would by now have persuaded the relevant ministers and MPs "to take this appalling measure back to the drawing board".

"Since this has not happened, my conscience will not let my silence be misunderstood. I ask all South Africans to join me in rejecting this measure in its entirety," he said in a letter sent to the Right 2 Know Campaign, a coalition heading opposition to the legislation.

"The bill is so deeply flawed that tinkering with its preamble by accepting a minor change here or there will not alter its fundamental nature - that it does not pay sufficient attention to the nature of freedom of expression.

"The Constitution is quite clear - in section 16 it embraces this right as including freedom of the press and other media. But the Constitution goes further, taking into account recent developments in that it guarantees freedom to receive or impart information or ideas."

Asmal said he was issuing an appeal as "a loyal member of the ANC who played some role in the drafting of this section" to the government, to withdraw the bill and set up an independent committee to draft a pared-down bill to protect state secrets.

"My fear or anxiety is that if the bill is forced through the ad hoc committee [drafting the bill], people whose judgment I trust will lose faith in the democratic process."

No shame

The bill, which imposes minimum prison sentence for being in possession of and publishing classified information, is widely expected to be heading for constitutional challenge.

Cosatu last month became the latest critic to threaten to refer it to the Constitutional Court, if it were adopted without major amendments.

But Asmal said it was wrong that judges should do lawmakers' work.

"It is unsatisfactory to expect the Constitutional Court to do the work that Parliament should be doing," he said in the letter dated June 2, but received by the Right 2 Know Campaign on Thursday.

"I feel that the executive has not given sufficient attention to the constitutional provisions and the way that the limitation of this right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society."

He said there was "no shame" in withdrawing the bill and going back to the drawing board.

"If this does not happen, civil society will deservedly ask for the maximum public support to oppose the bill in other ways."

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils has also called for a rethink on the legislation, calling it "too broad and unfocused" and the penalties proposed "harsh".

The ANC-dominated drafting committee has called for a two-month extension of its June 24 deadline to finalise the bill, after Cosatu joined the groundswell of opposition to the measure. There are however no signs that ruling party MPs are ready to make concessions on clauses seen as unconstitutional.

Activists say the bill is not only an attack on media freedom, but would deter whistle-blowing and deny the poor information on service delivery, by allowing all government departments to classify documents.

Comments
  • joe - 2011-06-15 21:42

    Well said minister,I admire ur courage

      keng - 2011-06-15 22:12

      Joe Unfortunately he is not a minister. You may remember the ANC told him to go and die with his cancer

      zaatheist - 2011-06-16 04:21

      All of the honest, principled members of the ANC have been redeployed. Only the venal remain.

  • Macho Mike - 2011-06-15 21:46

    Is this an ANC plot to gag freedom of expression, and control all forms of communication? It is concerning when ANC members object to this Bill. Something smells...............

  • BigD - 2011-06-15 21:58

    This bill wil fail in Con Court. I will help with the legal fees if public is asked to help. Then the anc will be embarresed. Also, why not use overseas papers and TV to discreadit someone if one has proof. So, I dont think this anc useless excuse of fraud and cadre incompetence cover up will fail. The the world will laugh even harder at SA than they are at present.

      keng - 2011-06-15 22:19

      But you realize that the criminals running this town are trying to pack the con court with criminals (Ala Robert Gabriel style). They already have the JSC in their hands run by a bunch of lackeys who will not appoint internationally recognised WHITE S.A attorneys as Judges

      Kuhle - 2011-06-16 01:42

      Keng, please don't get me wrong, I 100% agree with Asmals's view and article. No good, absolutely none, could cme from this bill being put through. The very very sad and infuriating fact, BigD, is that the Constitutional Court just might put this through. But, back to Keng, just to correct a mistake in factual knowledge, white judges outnumber black judges 6-1....

      keng - 2011-06-16 17:44

      Kuhle Currently there are over 200 judges, of whom approximately 120 are black and 90 are white. The number of women judges remains low, women making up less than a quarter of judges, O'Regan said. The Constitutional Court still has only two female judges out of 11 (the same number it had in 1994), although it now also has eight black judges and three white.

  • Spyker May - 2011-06-15 21:58

    You have my vote, sir...

  • lilo69 - 2011-06-15 21:59

    You're not As-Mal as I thought....Kaderbai,....oh,....and, welcome back/terug Ronnie.

  • keng - 2011-06-15 22:02

    Kader Asmal is an extremely intelligent man; full stop. However I cannot for the life of me still understand why he is still a member of what is now an international gang of criminal despots. Kader I really believe if you still believe in freedom of the press you should join the DA. I understand it would be hard to leave an organization that professed their belief in freedom but the ANC you once knew is but a shadow of itself. It's very very cold here in cape Town this evening and I couldn't help but think of the children who must be suffering. Meanwhile the fu%kers want to spend 1.4 billion changing Government House which was good enough for many years. I spit on the bastards

  • Andrew - 2011-06-15 22:14

    Asmal and Kasrils: Both heroes and veterans of fighting for human rights. Regimes might change ,but these guys don't. Thankfully!! Why is Trevor Manuel so quiet!!

      keng - 2011-06-15 22:25

      The only reason I can think of as to why TM is still there is that it is better to be in the tent pis@ing out. He probably believes that he can have some control over this nightmare that is unfolding

  • Bhekisizwe - 2011-06-15 22:33

    To hell with this bill as they are trying to cover all the scandals that they have done before and are continuing to do by today, i thought the ANC was governing the people, but as it seems the people do not want that bill and what is JZ saying about this nonsense and this are such things that made me to no longer vote for the ANC, hence they do not care what we as people want, they are only concern about what they want. I can safely say this, although i have not conducted any formal survey regarding this matter, it is quite obvious that the very same people of SA that they should be governing do not want this bill and this is my highly subjective point of view.

      willvp - 2011-06-15 22:40

      Bheki, what are you talking about?

  • Karoobloed - 2011-06-16 04:43

    Another moral torchbearer in the ANC from the previous generation. Where are the young ones?

  • keng - 2011-06-16 10:40

    It therefore comes as a disturbing surprise that a female and five male candidates for the Cape Bench, who are White, have all been overlooked in favour of keeping vacancies, rather than appointing any two of them. This is a worse case scenario than that which occurred in 2010 when all vacancies were filled, but a brilliant White candidate who is internationally recognised as a fine lawyer, was overlooked. The decision to keep open vacancies rather than appoint the best of these five, does not bode well. Can it be expected that worthy White candidates will continue to make themselves available for permanent judicial appointment when these five have been so shabbily treated by the JSC? Can they be expected to take up acting appointments in the face of this calumny? It is also questionable whether it is appropriate to treat acting appointments as a ‘test run' for unheralded candidates who have ambitions to be appointed permanently. This is likely to dilute the quality of justice dispensed and to give the Judge President, who in effect selects the acting judges with the imprimatur of the Minister of Justice, the power to dispense favours which his office does not properly encompass

  • keng - 2011-06-16 10:41

    Indeed, throughout the country, and particularly in the bigger Divisions, the institution of acting judges is being abused by the manner in which and duration for which, acting judges are appointed to do the heavy work required of judges. Competent and experienced White acting judges are routinely appointed, sometimes for extended periods of time, in order to cope with the work load. Despite the fact that they have the qualifications and are fit and proper persons for appointment, they are, however overlooked when it comes to permanent appointments. On the other hand, so-called ‘transformation candidates' are allowed to lurk with intent on the Bench as acting judges until their repeated attempts to achieve permanent status are so regularly rebuffed that they eventually give up their acting positions. This practice cannot contribute positively to the confidence of the public in the judiciary's ability to administer justice properly. It is also worth noting that the female attorney who was among the candidates rejected had attended the judicial training course and had scored the highest marks on the course. What more is she supposed to do? Furthermore, Owen Rogers SC is a candidate in the same class as last year's reject, Jeremy Gauntlett S C, which makes the decision to overlook him incomprehensibly irrational, particularly in view of the fact that his candidacy was supported by Advocates For Transformation in glowing terms.

  • keng - 2011-06-16 10:41

    The provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act make it clear that its machinery cannot be utilised for the purpose of taking decisions to appoint or not to appoint judges, on review. The fact remains, however, that unless the JSC takes a long, hard look at its trajectory and endeavours to seek a proper constitutionally compliant balance in the manner in which it goes about its work, the common weal will not be served by the appointment of inferior judges in the interests of race and gender considerations.

  • ian.d.samson - 2011-06-16 13:37

    For once, Prof Asmal says something profound!

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