DA info bill complaint 'absurd'
Cape Town - The DA's complaint about the state security department's protection of state information bill advert is "absurd and ridiculous", ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said on Tuesday.
One of the problems that "have been lamented about, from time to time, by the majority of stakeholders involved in the bill's process has been the lack of or limited knowledge pertaining to the objectives and intentions of this draft legislation among the public", he said in a statement.
The African National Congress parliamentary caucus, albeit with limited resources, and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) committee dealing with the bill had used their public consultation processes to "educate the people on the bill and get their views".
However, the state security department's intervention "in this public educational process should be welcomed".
As the sponsor of the bill, the department had a right to educate the public on its objectives and intentions through a variety of media platforms, Motshekga said.
"It is silly for the DA to regard this exercise as a violation of the principle of separation of powers. The department is merely educating South Africans on the facts around the bill, not influencing or meddling in the parliamentary process."
The department's communications initiative was an important intervention, particularly in the light of "one-sided reporting by certain sections of the media, due to their interest in the bill".
"We are confident that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will see the DA's complaint for what it is, a silly and opportunistic political game, and dismiss it," Motshekga said.
Earlier this week, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said her party was lodging a complaint with the ASA.
"The campaign... seeks to persuade the public that the purpose of the bill is to protect personal information, such as birth certificates and drivers' licences," she said.
However, the adverts - in print and on radio and TV - focused on "a narrow and largely irrelevant" aspect of the bill.
"[This]... is disingenuous, as no mention is made of the bill's range of controversial implications."
There was no reference to its serious implications for press freedom, or its potential repercussions for corruption whistleblowers.
Mazibuko said she would also write to National Assembly speaker, Max Sisulu, and NCOP chairperson, Mninwa Mahlangu, to raise concerns about the government launching a media offensive on a matter that was currently before Parliament.
The department's decision to "engage in this propaganda campaign" on a piece of legislation still being deliberated on, and that had yet to be signed into law, showed a clear disregard for the separation of powers, Mazibuko said.
The advertisements appeared to breach three key provisions of the ASA's advertising code dealing with honesty, fear and truthful representation.