Speaker alerted to bill complaints - protector
Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has submitted a summary of the main complaints her office received on the protection of state information bill to the Speaker of Parliament.
There was nothing else she could do at the moment, she said on Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately there wasn't much I could do because my jurisdiction is maladministration... and here we are still talking about it [the law being passed] in Parliament," she said.
The National Assembly approved the bill on Tuesday afternoon.
Complaints to the protector included those from the National Press Club, the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, the Right2Know campaign, the Jewish Board of Deputies and Talk Radio 702 morning host John Robbie.
Madonsela said her team had prepared a summary of what had been received and had alerted the Speaker that there were serious concerns about, above all, a public interest clause.
"People who made submissions couldn't understand what we could lose as South Africa if a public interest defence was included in this bill," she told talkshow host Jenny Crwys-Williams.
She felt the government had a valid argument in terms of protecting state security.
"... But there is equally a compelling situation that democracy belongs to all of us and we all play different roles in upholding democracy."
One of those roles was to make people in public power accountable, and in a country with a population of 50 million the only way was through the media and public dialogue.
"If it's not going to be possible to have a dialogue on public life, that's going to be a problem."
She cautioned against assuming that "waving" a public interest defence meant that there was a public interest cause.
Judges had handled that defence with circumspection and had always balanced it with the need to protect state security and a proper functioning state.