Info bill step closer to becoming law

2011-09-05 22:17

Cape Town - The protection of information bill came a step closer to becoming law on Monday as MPs adopted a final draft, despite opposition objections and threats of legal challenge.

The ANC prevailed in the final vote on the contentious state secrecy bill with a comfortable majority, as it had on Friday in clause by clause deliberations.

After the vote, Steve Swart, from the African Christian Democratic Party, reiterated it would petition President Jacob Zuma to refer the bill for constitutional review.

Swart said this was because, despite endless petitioning, the final draft lacked a public interest defence to protect people who published classified information to expose state wrongdoing.

The ACDP could find support from the Democratic Alliance.

DA MP David Maynier said his party would take legal advice on whether the bill would pass constitutional muster without such a defence.

It would then decide whether to petition the president in terms of clause 79 of the Constitution.

"I am shattered and disappointed by the outcome of the legislative process which is now concluded," Maynier said.

"The fact is that despite making improvements in the bill, we were not, in the end able to de-fang the bill," he said.

"Most importantly, we were not able to secure a public interest defence and this raises questions about the constitutionality of the bill."

Last week, before the ink was dry on the bill, civil society organisations threatened to launch a Constitutional Court challenge if the president signed it without amendments to protect the press and whistleblowers.

Oppressive secrecy

However, Cecil Burgess, the ANC chairperson of the ad hoc drafting committee, told MPs he was satisfied a sound piece of legislation had been delivered.

"We have taken all necessary steps to ensure the bill passes the constitutional test. The most important amendments have been done on the advice of legal experts," Burgess said.

"A lot of people outside have threatened and they have their rights, but we must not be scared."

Burgess said the bill would be tabled in the National Assembly before the legislature rose in late September.

It would be several months at least before the bill went onto the statute books.

It would first go the National Council of Provinces, then to the president for signature, and become law only once the minister of state security had drafted the required regulations for its implementation.

The bill criminalises the possession and disclosure of classified information and prescribes sanctions ranging from a fine to 25 years in prison.

The opposition, civil society organisations, the media and the Congress of SA Trade Unions have pleaded for a public interest defence to balance the need for secrecy with the constitutional imperative for openness.

Such a clause would allow whistleblowers and journalists who disclosed classified information to argue in court that they had acted for the public good.

In a year of debate in and outside the legislature, the ANC made several far-reaching concessions, but refused to budge on this issue.

On Friday, the state security ministry, which guided the drafting process, said allowing such a defence would be "to shred the bill even before it becomes law".

The new law would repeal apartheid-era legislation dating from 1982, but when it was introduced last year critics labelled it an attempt to return to the oppressive secrecy of the old regime.

Amid public pressure, the ANC agreed in recent months to restrict the power to classify information to the intelligence and security agencies, to limit the definition of national security as cause for classification.

It also scrapped minimum prison sentences for all acts criminalised in the bill, apart from espionage.

  • SeanK - 2011-09-05 22:38

    rubber stamp time

      Francois - 2011-09-05 22:59

      Sean, what an appalling image! Dit daar gelaat, dit gaan nie nou oor die Nazi's nie, maar dit is nogal ironies dat jy die simbool van een van die mees onderdrukkende in destruktiewe magte gebruik om seker maar 'n sardoniese standpunt te maak. Die artikel is swak geskryf en die opskrif is duidelik een wat sensasie soek - dit is ook ironies dat terwyl media vryheid onder die soeklig kom, die media 'n sensasionele opskrif soek. Die regering se regsverteenwoordigers sal seker weer verkeerd bewys word, miskien moet ons 'n wet instel dat as die parlement 'n wet skryf wat nie die toets in die grondwethof slaag nie, beide die voorsitter van die komitee en die regsverteenwoordiger 'n R 500k boete betaal. Oeps dan gaan hulle almal 'n R 1mil per jaar verhoging wil he - jammer. Swak idee.

      realist03 - 2011-09-06 06:29

      This will initiate civil war,plain n simple,enough is enough,Democracy has been compromised,bring on the sanctions and let us over throw this regime,and the regime thought mk was good, wait till they see what our insurgency is going to do,its coming,,,,,watch this space___________________

      Dougalan - 2011-09-06 08:43

      It's simple. The ANC have proven hundreds of times over that they are crooks who steal from the poor to enrich their own pockets. They hate having their deeds exposed in the press, radio and TV. So they now railroad through a law so they can declare this exposure of their crimes illegal. That's it.

      York Hunt - 2011-09-06 08:43

      This is totally "Orwellian".

      Mebob - 2011-09-06 09:54

      The sad fact is that there is nothing that we can do about it because the masses will always vote these guys in.The best way is keep to yourselves and say very little. After all, that is what they want.They don't want to be interfered with by anyone.It is really so sad to see so many well educated people vote for these guys when it is their very lives and those of their families becoming so difficult.

      Politicallycorrect - 2011-09-06 11:27

      We dooo whaat we waaaant to do, because we aree inchaaarge. We the ANC tell Malema to cause trouble so that he can have all his supporters toytoy so that they cause a distraaction whilst we do other things like wek on the infamation bill behind closed doors and behind da masses and journalists backs!

      Henk - 2011-09-19 13:00

      Tsotsis, Murderes and all other Criminals hide in bushes, shadows and Darkness. You shall know them by their fruits!

  • Sit-hole - 2011-09-05 22:49

    Corruption, Failing education, total incompetence, steeling farms, exploiting the voters ssshhh its classified. Looks like North Korea & South Africa are one & the same comrades.

  • brett.macdonald1 - 2011-09-05 22:50

    I will make it my goal to become South Africa's first political prisoner under our new compensation.

      Jay - 2011-09-06 06:23

      Just let me know when and where and i will help you!

  • Slive - 2011-09-05 23:09

    So now all corrupt and criminal avtivities can be carried out in peace and quite?? what a bunch of FAT bastards

      Leon Groenewald - 2011-09-06 07:29

      We already know the ANC's agenda: Appropriate all funds from everybody at all cost in order to enrich the cadre; then when bled dry, get rid of the whites by any means including incitement to murder (Julius simply perpetuates "kill the boer", he did not initiate it). Now with this bill they can do so without fear of public or international scrutiny. We're truly in Africa now, civilization may bow out!

      haveyoursay - 2011-09-06 08:27


  • solly - 2011-09-05 23:10

    Ag ja, the next to happen will be that this law will be pushed through especially with our new chief justice.. despite everyone's protest. Then the ANC will be able to hide all their corrupt doings and especially quash negative reporting once the election times come along so that they will most definitely win the next election without any media being able to point a finger at them. I fear for this country and it is time we really stood up and did something drastic to make this government realize that we are not satisfied with their so-called democrazy

  • sipholess - 2011-09-05 23:42

    Another nail in the coffin at the end of the rainbow.

  • Mandla - 2011-09-06 01:33

    Law makers should make sure that what ever law they pass in parliament should be in line with our constitution to serve us embrasiment from the so called clever guys who can read through the fine lines of our so called the best constitution in the world on paper not in practise(Huge`s case)the law used to disband the scopions.

  • Warren - 2011-09-06 03:41

    The aim of the ANC is to stack the Constitutional Court with weak, compliant judges whom they will be sure will vote the 'ANC way'. This is what happened in Zim.

  • realist03 - 2011-09-06 06:29

    This will initiate civil war,plain n simple,enough is enough,Democracy has been compromised,bring on the sanctions and let us over throw this regime,and the regime thought mk was good, wait till they see what our insurgency is going to do,its coming,,,,,watch this space___________________

  • Prof - 2011-09-06 06:41

    The media is not supposed to have access to all the government's information. The problem is how do we classify the information.

  • Verbatim - 2011-09-06 07:30

    All i can say is...Knee Grow

  • SA Sucks - 2011-09-06 07:35

    ANC, do you not take note of what is happening in other parts of Africa where people are fast growing gatvol of dictators. Zuma and your cronies, your time is fast approaching, and I am proud to say that I will be in the front of the queue when it comes to getting rid of you all.

  • Terminusest - 2011-09-06 07:40

    And so the cANCer in our midst grows - the parasitic tumor eating away at our democracy will be able to do so with impunity.

  • KrayZee - 2011-09-06 07:45

    And so we slide a little further back to the days of the apartheid regime. What an irony that people who fought the tyranny of the apartheid regime are now using the same tactics. They claim transparency, but if this bill becomes law, which now looks very likely as a result of the ochlocracy we have become, only serves to allow these thugs to hide their wrong doings! Just as in the case of the Scorpions, the ANC is using the tyrannical majority to bulldoze this legislation through parliament. I am sure most of the ANC members who voted in favour do not even know what the bill is all about. It is amazing what one can achieve with deployed cadres who are only interested in the paycheck at the end of the month! Sad to hear that names like Enver Daniels, Cecil Burgess and the like are associated with this National Party type legislation.

  • Julian - 2011-09-06 07:47

    This Bill is unconstitutional and will almost certainly be struck down by the Courts. News24, is there a fund to which we can contribute for the lawyers fees to fight this Bill?

  • Felix - 2011-09-06 07:48

    Gotta leave before the rush. Who's ever plan it was to F this country up, well done a$$holes.

  • 32 - 2011-09-06 07:55

    You can run but you cannot hide !!!!Even if you try !!!

  • Gargmel - 2011-09-06 08:06

    I think it is time for Wikileaks SA. They cannot lock you up for exposing their corruption if they do not know who you are.

  • haveyoursay - 2011-09-06 08:25

    Did the opposition really expect the ANC to back down? They are determined to see the press gagged. If you think the corruption was bad before, there is no stopping the ruling party to really go to town as no-one can say anything against them.

  • Babba x - 2011-09-06 10:45

    The ANC government is muzzling their ANC supporters. Nice one

  • Ulindi - 2011-09-06 10:52

    I'm seriously concerned... We complain, debate and voice our concerns about this unruly corrupt gov that is clearly and openly overturning this country into a disaster that will be unrepairable. When and how are we going to stand up for what we as citizens deserve and act out to prevent a currently fast approaching downfall?! Or are we just going to stand by and watch our lives and this country go to the dogs?

      Jon - 2011-09-06 14:08

      what do you suggest?

      Ulindi - 2011-09-07 14:04

      I don't have any peaceful suggestions - that is what concerns me most. We all live in our own little worlds and don't even know our next door neighbors - there's not a good enough sense of community or a commonly joint movement to bring about change. I'm open to suggestions - lets see if we can come up with something plausible??

  • Schalk - 2011-09-06 10:55

    So the pigs started to change the laws to suit themselves but the other animals did not notice this as they can not read and afterall the pigs know best. This is Orwell's "Animal Farm" in motion. God help SA.

  • Hippocrates - 2011-09-06 13:13

    They are toooo clever, this happened the day Julius was having his desciplinary hearing, the media and the nation were too busy fixated on Julius's hearing whilst a committee sat on this matter....

      Jon - 2011-09-06 14:08

      clever isnt the word - corrupt, deceitful, dishonest, guilty springs to mind.

  • carlkristen - 2011-09-06 13:18

    its been a case of slowly turning up the heat...we heard about it years ago and we still watching it happen...things like this never end well...not for anybody....the ANC is basically signing its own death warrant..problem is how many others will have to suffer before the tide turns again?

  • ruben.maistry - 2011-09-19 13:05

    Stop the Bill.Collective mass action from all concerned citizens of the country.Prevention is beter than cure.Stop these thieves now, before it is too late.

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