ANC again calls for info bill delay

2011-04-19 19:41

Cape Town - The ANC on Tuesday again called for a time-out on the protection of information bill, this time to allow it to mull whether to include the police and military in the ambit of the law.

The issue arose in the last meeting of the drafting committee before Parliament goes into recess until after the May 18 municipal elections, a month before MPs' deadline to finalise the bill expires.

The meeting was meant to conduct a comprehensive review of all political parties' submission for changes to the bill, but stumbled on the ANC's proposal that it be changed to apply to "all security services as contemplated in chapter 11 of the Constitution".

Opposition parties disagreed on whether the bill should apply to police and defence, whose powers to classify information derive from existing security legislation.

More talk time for ANC

The Inkatha Freedom Party said it should, but the Democratic Alliance's Dene Smuts said the ANC was contradicting a statement by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele that it should cover only the intelligence services.

"You know as well as I do that this won't come right. Why do you want to drag other agencies into this marshland?" Smuts asked.

After a 15-minute break to give the ANC caucus time failed to settle the issue, ANC MP Nkosinathi Fihla said there was "a need for further consultation on this issue by the ANC" and the meeting was adjourned.

It was the second time in less than a week that a meeting of the committee was closed with little or no progress.

On Friday, committee chairperson Cecil Burgess said there was no point in proceeding with a scheduled session because ANC members had not had time to study the submissions.

Opposition MPs believe that work on the contentious bill has stalled because ruling party colleagues no longer have a clear political mandate on how to proceed.

Power to classify information 

Smuts's statement that the bill "won't come right" reflects the further, growing conviction among opposition parties that the legislation will end up in the Constitutional Court.

She argued that the scope of the legislation must be narrowed down also with regard to the number of organs of state that would have the power to classify information.

As it stands, the bill would give 1 001 organs of state, right down to the Johannesburg Zoo and the Roodepoort City Theatre, the power to file information as top secret.

"It is unconstitutional to make the bill applicable to all organs of state," Smuts said.

If the ANC pushed the bill through Parliament with that provision intact, she would petition the president not to sign it into law, she said.

Muzzling the media?

The bill sparked a public outcry last year, along with plans by the ANC to set up a media tribunal that reports to Parliament.

Together they were read as an attempt by ANC hawks to restrict investigative news reporting.

The bill makes it a crime punishable with 25 years in prison to communicate top secret information.

The ANC has rejected calls by the media, activists and the opposition to temper this with a clause enabling journalists to argue in court that they published classified information in the public interest, and said there was no hope of persuading it otherwise.

  • jaycee - 2011-04-19 19:56

    The ANC is playing for time, until after the election. (As usual one cannot trust them, they always have a hidden agenda).

  • Kristi10 - 2011-04-19 20:00

    UUUUrrrrrghhhh!!! We have the right of freedom of speach! ANC is wasting tax money again.

  • Brieuse - 2011-04-19 20:03

    Sound like they intend to hide many things from their voters

  • gizzy - 2011-04-19 20:05

    Let these ANC stooges bring this bill to parliament and pass it. Fortunately it will never get through the Constitutional Court! And the ANC will never again get a two thirds majority. Only Nelson was able to achive that for the ANC!

      paulf - 2011-04-20 08:27

      I've just signed an urgent petition calling on the ANC to protect our democracy and basic freedoms by reversing an unconstitutional secrecy Bill and a new proposal to gag the media. I thought you would want to join me. If enough of us come together now and oppose these initiatives, our outcry will be too loud to ignore at the ANC Council this week. You can read more below and sign the petition here: Thanks!

      paulf - 2011-04-20 08:29

      Here is the full story, don't delay, Act Now!!!! Dear friend across South Africa, South Africa's democracy is at risk -- a draconian and unconstitutional new secrecy Bill is in Parliament and a Media Tribunal could be endorsed by the ANC Council this week, muzzling the media and letting the security agencies operate without accountability. The secrecy measures in the "Protection of Information Bill" and the proposed "Media Appeals Tribunal" threaten press freedom enshrined in the Constitution and will hamper public scrutiny of the government and security agencies, blocking the media from exposing corruption and abuse of power. Hundreds of prominent South Africans, business executives, civic leaders and journalists have condemned the measures and submitted amendments on the Bill to Parliament, but so far the ANC is defending both proposals. Only massive pressure from citizens across South Africa can wake them up and preserve hard-won freedoms! We have just 3 days to be heard at the ANC Council. Let's raise an irresistible outcry -- join the call for the ANC to listen to the people, respect the Constitution and promote accountable and transparent government! Click to sign the urgent petition, then forward this message to everyone – it will be delivered at the ANC Council: 43% of South Africans survive on no more than R16 a day and half of our youth are unemployed, while Transparency International claims "corruption is increasing at an enormous rate and it impacts severely on the poor. Revenue destined for the poor is misappropriated". These new proposals would obstruct the media's bold efforts to expose bribery, corruption and fraud and would lead this proud democracy towards autocratic control. The proposed Protection of Information Bill would allow any national or local government department or agency to classify and make secret any information that they consider against the 'national interest' and would punish whistle blowers or journalists with up to 25 years in jail if they leak or publish information that was classified, even if it was in the public interest. This violates Section 32 of the Constitution -- which protects the citizens right of access to any information held by the State. The Media Tribunal would replace the Press Ombudsman with a state agency accountable only to the ruling party, tightly regulating reporting, and imposing penalties on journalists. Just like when citizens came together to call for effective treatment for HIV and AIDS in 2007, if we rally now we could change the course of these repressive policies and efforts to silence the media can be stopped. The ANC Council meeting is the decisive moment -- if we lose this chance, the ANC's 60% majority in Parliament will most likely push these proposals through unchanged. Inside the ANC Council COSATU delegates and others are strongly against the gag law -- if we raise a massive citizens' outcry this week, we could support their efforts on the inside to overwhelm an elite who attempt to railroad through these undemocratic proposals. Sign the petition and forward this message to everyone: Many fought, and died, for these freedoms. Now, if citizens stand up together to protect South Africa's democracy, our outcry will be too loud to ignore -- and we will beat those who want to protect their power and privilege by curbing constitutional liberties. With hope and determination, Alice, Paul, Ricken, Benjamin, Emma, Giulia, Pascal, Iain, Paula and the whole Avaaz team More information: was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: work with citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. In three years, Avaaz has grown to over 5.8 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history. Avaaz's largest membership is in Brazil and France and Mexico and India are two of Avaaz's fastest growing memberships this year. This campaign is being launched with the nearly 60,000 Avaaz members across South Africa. Sources: "SA journalists fight proposed media laws", Mail&Guardian: "It's your right to know, public reminded", Iol/Cape Times: Protection of Information Bill: "Media Appeals Tribunal" proposal in the ANC Discussion paper on "Media Diversity and Ownership": South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign: Combining Law and Social Mobilization to Realize the Right to Health, Mark Heywood:

      Mswati - 2011-04-20 22:06

      Julle is net te dof

  • Brandon96end - 2011-04-19 20:10


  • Dal68 - 2011-04-19 20:15

    Apartheid all over again.......ANC/ difference

      gizzy - 2011-04-19 20:28

      That's why they welcomed the NP with open arms! Birds of a feather...... Both racist and both power hungry dictators!

  • closedeye - 2011-04-19 20:15

    Well maybe you should make a decision and stop f'ing around with shit. i was anc but hell stop your scrap

  • Gen - 2011-04-19 20:48

    Remember that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

  • givano - 2011-04-19 21:57

    ANC has to be careful cos DA ìs behind them. i wish as DA could win the vote so that they can wakup and keep true promises 4people!

  • TamaraSays - 2011-04-19 22:59

    This is potentially the worst thing that can happen to South Africa, both locally, in terms of it's impact here, and internationally, when the rest of the world sees this type of blatant gagging of the media. The media is supposed to be a part of the system of checks and balances on the government. Disabling them is only MORE evidence that the government is up to illegal activities - not less. Do they really think that just because the media doesn't report on their thieving, the people won't know? All this will do is make us work on the assumption that EVERYTHING (as opposed to about 90% now) that the ANC does is illegal, unethical, corrupt or just plain criminal.

  • - 2011-04-20 07:12

    In other words they do not wish police brutality to be reported on and some time in the future the defence forces will be used to suppress unrest and therefore gag any reporting. Will this also put an end to calls for investigation into the arms deal. More and more a police state is being created.

  • Organist-1 - 2011-04-20 08:11

    Guys, guys, guys, as they say in the advert. Are you all missing the point? The CIA had been very active in Africa stirring up trouble by the USA. The whole middle east and Libya (strategic oil)Now central Africa (oil) next on the list Swaziland to act as a springboard for the RSA with all its strategic minerals. All the unrest and unreasonable demands and strikes are externally motivated and a shadow of what we are in for.

      DW - 2011-04-20 10:52

      Your conspiracy theory is ridiculous. Why does everyone always think the USA is behind every uprising in the world? You watch far too much TV. Get a life.

      DeonL - 2011-04-20 12:41

      This is nonsense, the demands and strikes in SA is due to greed and promises made by Unions and polititians, CIA is not interested in such a small country. We even don't fit in with the BRIC countries.

  • onetickie - 2011-04-20 09:28

    Zimouth Africa here we come. A name change for the whole country with the african mentality towards freedom of speech to avoid being found in their game of hide and seek.

  • Shadoz - 2011-04-20 12:18

    I dnt want to live in South Africa anymore I just wish i had the money to leave. We truely are headed down a long and corrupt road if this bill is passed. Zuma and his cronies are talking about bad potatoes and apples yet they seem to be the worst of the whole rotten bunch. I for one am getting sick and tierd of this bull and we need to do somthing about it.

  • Carl Muller - 2011-05-25 08:45

    The Whistleblower is the story of how Mike Tshishonga, former Deputy Director-General of the Justice Department, became a victim by blowing the whistle on high-placed corruption and nepotism. It takes an in-depth look at Mike’s life in Venda, his journey to the top echelons of the Justice Department and his subsequent exposure of the corrupt elements within it. Whistleblower explores the Protected Disclosures Act that has been put in place by the South African government to assist South Africans in fighting corruption and nepotism. The book explains in detail how the Protected Disclosures Act and other systems available to the public can help anyone who has been victimised for standing up against corrupt officials.

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