Definition of security not needed - ANC

2011-08-15 22:25

Cape Town - The ANC's reluctance to define two key concepts in the protection of information bill led on Monday to fresh cries of unconstitutionality and calls for it to be binned.

Luwellyn Landers, the MP leading deliberations on the bill for the ruling party, proposed that lawmakers not seek to define national security - set out in the bill as the sole basis for any decision to classify information - and leave it up to courts and intelligence operatives to interpret the concept.

He argued there was little international precedent for a definition and that the meaning of national security differed from country to country.

"Virtually nowhere in democratic dispensations such as ours have governments defined it. National security defies clear definition. It has malleable and very elastic meanings."

Landers added: "Judges know what it means. They don't need a definition. Intelligence operatives know what national security means. You don't need a definition - you are speaking to the converted."

But opposition MPs believe that, in the words of the Democratic Alliance's Dene Smuts, if left undefined the term "can mean any damn thing" and the current draft would sail dangerously close to earlier ones that sought to allow classification to protect not only national security but the still more elusive notion of national interest.

That provoked sustained protest and was eventually cut from the bill at the orders of the state security ministry.


Her colleague David Maynier said Canadian law did have a definition and proposed that South Africa borrow from it to write into the bill that national security did not preclude legitimate political activity, advocacy, protest and dissent. "We need a clear and narrow definition because it must be clear to classifiers what may and may not be classified."

Maynier warned that if this were not done, "there may again be a problem of constitutionality".

The remark offended Landers, who pointed out that the ANC when it promised a host of concessions on the bill in June, agreed to limit the power to classify information to the intelligence agencies.

This meant that only six or seven bodies would have the power to classify information and their members had a clear grasp of what should be kept secret because it could put at risk the national security.

"I don't agree with you that if we don't define national security the bill is unconstitutional," he said.

Back to the drawing board

Landers earlier resisted opposition demands that "prejudice to the republic" be defined clearly in the bill.

Clause 42 of the draft act makes it a crime punishable with up to 20 years in prison to obtain top secret information that could "benefit a non-state actor engaged in hostile activity or prejudice the republic".

Smuts said the notion of prejudice was far too wide and could allow the clause to be abused to silence the media, one of the main criticisms of the contentious bill.

Ideally, she said, the vague notion of prejudice should be removed, leaving the clause to target only those who traffic secrets to organisations like al-Qaeda.

Landers was adamant that the clause should remain and state law advisers said they were satisfied that it posed no problem.

The Right 2 Know Campaign accused the ANC of failing to let go of its initial, regressive agenda with the bill.

Spokesperson Murray Hunter said slow, obtuse deliberations among lawmakers in recent weeks had convinced him that they could not deliver workable legislation by Parliament's deadline of September 23.

"I am increasingly of a mind that it should be scrapped in its entirety and another independent body should go to the drawing board and start again."

Legal experts Iain Currie and Pierre de Vos have also said in the past they did not believe the law could be wrested away from its beginnings and turned into a conventional state secrets act by making changes here and there.

  • Macho Mike - 2011-08-15 22:38

    Eish, let me give you my definition of security - under ANC rule, nothing is secure!!!!!!!! Simples.

  • Sisie - 2011-08-16 07:37

    Welcome to the Police State, run by a bunch of thugs and hooligans. Just like any other country in Africa. When in Africa do as Africa does. By force, by disregard for human life, by the gun.

  • Vince York - 2011-08-16 07:57

    Landers - DEFINE IT. What the hell has spilling a drink anything to do with assault or national security? Sheer abuse by an influenced & coerced magistrate. and for that matter raising a middle finger to summons a taxi? (restitution following to that innocent chap). So you can see immediately how awry NOT defining something so important can become, even though it would suit your aims for having free reign towards any declaration of terror, assault and murder of citizens and others as under zanu-pf reign of terror and death. The ANC and these pro-proponents are determined to subvert and undermine what is good for the country and it's citizens in favour of empowering ONLY the few ultra enriched cadre elite with security to continue plundering and looting. Come to think of it, how many laundry funds have these people as in Trust Funds laundering cash as per Julius and the rest of the transformed gang of thieves? HAWKS - you chaps can easily create 500,000 jobs just to recover the stolen and looted public tax payers money. What BONUS' and cash settlements and golden handshakes will they get, and then be pushed off the platform once the deed has been forced and coerced through to a 'stillborn' success for the dictatorship to be announced? IT IS PRECISELY FOR THE SECURITY OF FUTURE and not your greedy immediate aims that it "MUST BE DEFINED".

  • Badballie - 2011-08-16 11:46

    Well of course you don't want to be tied to a definition, making it up as you go along is the African Democratic way isn't it.

  • Nero - 2011-08-16 12:24

    Luwellyn Landers: Snake and traitor to his people.

  • pothead - 2011-08-24 12:29

    animal farm at it's best!!!!!!!!

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