Outrage at info bill vote mounting
Cape Town - Outrage mounted on Monday at government's intention to pass the controversial Protection of State Information Bill through the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The debate is scheduled for a vote following a debate in the Assembly last week.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had written to Speaker Max Sisulu to raise her concerns regarding public complaints she received on the bill, City Press reported.
Civil rights group AfriForum's legal team is poised to fight the bill in the Constitutional Court.
And the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) called for action to ensure the bill did not become law.
According to Madonsela’s spokesperson, Kgalalelo Masibi, she decided if the bill was passed into law without the recommended changes she would ask President Jacob Zuma to intervene, City Press reported.
"She will do all she can to have the letter sent to the speaker before the vote takes place tomorrow. But if the bill is passed unaltered then she will write to the president raising the clauses on public interest defence," said Masibi.
Madonsela's comments came amid lobby groups and media organisations’ plan to stage protests and pickets on Tuesday.
The public has been asked to wear black on Tuesday to signify "Black Tuesday", synonymous with the historical occasion of Black Wednesday when various newspapers were shut down in a media clampdown by the apartheid government.
AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets said the organisation had renewed its appeal to Zuma to refer the bill to the Constitutional Court for an order as to its constitutionality before it was passed.
AfriForum had already instructed a senior advocate specialising in media law to draw up a legal opinion on the bill's constitutionality.
"There are several reasons why the bill will not pass the test of constitutionality," said Roets.
These included that the bill was, as a whole, vague, complex, and difficult to understand, he said in a statement.
Among other things, the criteria for classifying information were vague and could therefore be applied inconsistently.
They left room for inconsistency in decision-making on the classification of information and the declassification of secret information.
"If this bill is passed, this protection will be practically impossible without a free press and access to information; any claims that South Africa is a healthy democracy will be void of credibility," he said.
In a separate statement, Samwu said it was concerned that the bill would disadvantage whistle blowers and workers "who are fighting corruption tooth and nail".
"The bill is not ready to be signed into law and is set to negatively impact the noble fight against corruption," said Samwu.
"Samwu has been in the forefront of fighting corruption at municipal level, and long before it was politically acceptable to do so."
If the bill became law, it would not only enable a whole range of municipal documents to be classified as secret, but would also serve to protect those who were "misusing their positions for private and nefarious gain".
This was the battle that all Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) affiliates should engage in.
"We are calling on all Cosatu affiliates to act to ensure that the secrecy bill does not become law and that this should be done in the interest of the public and in the interest of enhancing service delivery to communities," Samwu said.