Info bill would've had Zuma in trouble - DA
Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma would have been in trouble had the protection of information bill been law when the spy tapes that spelled the end of his corruption trial traded hands, DA MP Dene Smuts said on Tuesday.
"Is it the case that the honourable president was in possession of and then disclosed classified police intelligence intercepts which precipitated the collapse of his own prosecution charges of alleged corruption?" Smuts asked during the presidency's budget debate in the National Assembly.
"I ask simply if he does not in fact find himself on the media's side on the subject of possession and disclosure? What has been good for him must of course be good for everyone: he will not want to hold himself above the law," she added.
The National Prosecuting Authority in 2009 withdrew charges that had dogged Zuma for years after his lawyer, Michael Hulley, confronted prosecutors with intercepted conversations between former NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka and Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy.
The NPA said the tapes suggested political interference regarding a decision to re-institute the charges against Zuma, thereby contaminating the case.
The inspector general for intelligence subsequently investigated how the tapes got into Hulley's possession.
But this remains a mystery because Parliament's joint standing committee on intelligence - under the leadership of Cecil Burgess, who also chairs the committee drafting the information bill, refused to make it public.
Opposition MPs, civil society organisations and ANC alliance partner Cosatu have all taken issue with the so-called secrecy bill and threatened to refer it to the Constitutional Court.
Among its contested provisions is a clause making possession of classified information a prisonable offence.
The bill prescribes a minimum sentence of three years for possession and a further five-year minumum sentence for passing on such information to anybody other than the police.
Critics have warned it would curtail media freedom and discourage whistle-blowing.
Smuts said should the ANC drive the bill through Parliament without making major changes to bring it in line with the Constitution, she would petition Zuma not to sign it.
"We will be petitioning him on the protection of information bill under section 79 later this year, asking him to send the bill back here before assent if its unconstititutionalities (at least eight) are not cured."
Following a renewed outcry over the bill, the ruling party appeared to have abandoned plans to finalise it by month's end, and asked for a two-month extension of the lifespan of the drafting committee.