Madonsela pleads with MPs over info bill

2012-03-28 18:52

Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has pleaded with MPs to rethink key aspects of the protection of state information bill, saying it would "severely" affect her work.

Madonsela told them on Wednesday that the bill, as it stood, would shrink her powers and bedevil investigations into state wrongdoing.

It would reduce her to the status of an ordinary citizen because it would oblige her to hand classified information to the police like anyone else.

Likewise, it would strip away the right she currently held to access classified information in the course of her duty, instead forcing her to go to court to obtain it like any other South African.

Won’t be toothless

"The public protector is directly affected by this bill," she told the second day of public hearings in Parliament on the contentious draft law.

"We will not be toothless, but we are going to function under more onerous circumstances."

She said the obligation clause 15 of the bill created for those who received classified information to hand it to the police to avoid prosecution posed the risk of her being arrested while she was studying any of the secret documents delivered to her office almost daily.

"Will I be affected? Yes, severely. At the moment I'm not chasing around trying to find out what documents came to my office and which police station do I rush to report it. I don't want to do that.

"Unfortunately, Parliament has elevated the police above chapter nine institutions. Why does this democracy trust a police station above chapter nine institutions?" she asked.

Madonsela said that at the moment, she had the prerogative to scrutinise any information sent to her office to see how it should be handled, but this would become a perilous exercise if the bill were passed.

Unintended consequences

"What if I am arrested while I'm applying my mind?" she asked, adding: "Probably the same could happen to journalists."

Madonsela tactfully suggested that the bill's impact on her office was one of a number of unintended consequences of the legislation, but baulked when ANC MP Nosipho Ntwanambi asked why the person in her post should not be treated in the same manner as ordinary South Africans.

"When a member of Parliament says you should be subject to the same rights and responsibilities as a person in the street, it scares me.

"My responsibility is to be some kind of buffer between the state and the citizen."

Madonsela said she did not believe the bill should include a special exemption for her office, but rather a chapter recognising the special status of all similar institutions, in the same manner that it enshrined the special powers of courts.

Responsibility

"What I am asking Parliament to accept is that chapter nine institutions were created by you as an accountability mechanism, and you should give them the space to exercise that responsibility."

Madonsela called for the inclusion of a public interest defence in the bill, rejecting State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele's oft-repeated argument that this would lead to the wholesale publication of state secrets.

"Will it open the floodgates? No, I don't think so."

She said such a defence would have to withstand an objective test on whether the public good derived from publication of a classified document outweighed the risk to the national security.

Like many other critics of the legislation, she said its definition of national security was too wide and it could pave the way for over-classification.

Asked whether she was flatly declaring the bill unconstitutional, Madonsela declined to answer but impressed on MPs that rethinking the bill could spare them the potential embarrassment of having it declared invalid by the courts.

"You have the power to prevent this matter being settled by a court of law," she said.

- SAPA

Read more on:    thuli madonsela  |  legislation  |  info bill
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
47 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Saturday Newlands - 12:32 PM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    DELAYS between Wynberg Hill and UCT due to 2 Oceans Marathon
  • Saturday Hout Bay - 12:31 PM
    Road name: Hout Bay Main Road
    EXPECT DELAYS between Hout Bay and Constantia due to 2 Oceans Marathon
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Tab P7500 10.1" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 gives you a better experience for...

From R4999.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you feel...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.