Soweto residents oppose Info Bill

2011-11-22 09:41

A group of Soweto residents who gathered outside the Hector Pieterson Square in Orlando West today described the Protection of State Information Bill as a “violation of their rights”.

The residents, dressed in red, and some in black T-shirts, are demonstrating against the expected voting of the bill in the National Assembly later today.

They said it would violate their right to know the business of a government they personally voted in.

The group is part of a nationwide campaign by organisations such as Right2Know who are opposed to the bill.

Mapule Mabuya (64) said she wanted government to do the right thing, and be transparent.

“When they want votes to stay in power they come to us, but when they have to be transparent they don’t want to hear anything from us,” she said.

Henry Moeti, 35, echoed Mabuya’s sentiments and added: “I have the right to know what is happening in the government I voted for.

“If that right is taken away it means South African citizens will not hear about incidents such as the recent one involving the president’s spokesman Mac Maharaj,” he said.

“The man is the president’s spokesperson and surely he has shared details of what happened, and if he received a bribe or not, and the president is keeping this information as secret.

“The community needs to know that they have the right to know these details because we voted for the current government,” Moeti said.

Another resident, Windy Leburu (28) said residents only got information when there was a conflict resulting from decisions taken without them being consulted.

“A perfect example would be the electricity issue where people are paying exorbitant bills and the elderly are targeted [for] prepaid meters,” she said.

“Elderly people were made to sign documents under the guise that Eskom was coming to fix old connections, when in fact they were for the installation of prepaid meters,” she said.

Leburu said governing councillors failed to inform residents about the Eskom move.

“There is no way that these councillors were not informed about the installation of prepaid (meters), but they chose not to inform us beforehand,” she said.

The group, which gathered early this morning, continued singing struggle songs about freedom and rights.

Some wore tape over their mouths, while others distributed flyers to passing motorists to explain what the community could do to protest against the bill.

Tourists visiting the Hector Pieterson square also seemed interested in the demonstration, leading one of the demonstrators to approach them and hand them some flyers which they read with interest.

One French tourist said South Africa needed to lead as an example of a democratic country, and support free access to information.

A Right2Know organiser, Raashied Galant, said: “People needed to understand the anti-bill campaign and the need for them to have access to information.”

Protests are under way in other parts of South Africa including Joburg, Pretoria and at Parliament in Cape Town.

The National Assembly is expected to vote on the bill at 2pm.

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