Info bill not balanced, says Cope
Cape Town - The draft protection of state information bill fails to achieve the balance necessary in legislation, the Congress of the People said on Monday.
"South Africa must work to enhance its democracy, not denude it in any way," Cope chief whip in the National Council of Provinces, Dennis Bloem, told journalists at Parliament.
The bill as it stood gave the impression that South Africa was under extremely serious threat of espionage and that the danger was of such a compelling nature that extreme measures had to be taken.
"If truth be told, the bill intends to hurt South Africa more than any acts of espionage," Bloem said.
"The purpose of lawmaking is to achieve a delicate balance. This, the bill fails to do."
It should therefore be brought in line with the spirit of the Constitution.
"If and when a dire threat from espionage should arise, it would then be appropriate to revise the act. For now the unavoidable conclusion is that the bill is intended to put a lid on damaging disclosures of rampant corruption and tenderpreneuring gone out of control," Bloem said.
The NCOP ad hoc committee dealing with the bill was due to start public hearings on the measure on Tuesday.
The bill was approved by the National Assembly in November last year without a public interest defence being included for disclosing classified information, and still contains harsh penalties for such disclosure.
Bloem said the courts needed to be trusted with wider discretion than the present formulation that the bill allowed. This discretion should extend from cautioning and discharging to imposing a sentence commensurate with the offence and should not smack of arbitrariness or going over the top, he said.