Info bill: Cele journos could have been jailed

2012-03-27 17:55

Cape Town - The Sunday Times journalists who reported on suspended national police commissioner Bheki Cele signing off on a "dodgy" R26m World Cup tender would have faced jail under the protection of state information bill, MPs heard on Tuesday.

"If the bill had been enforced and documents had been classified under the bill, the journalists would be facing jail sentences," media lawyer Dario Milo said on behalf of the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef).

Milo told MPs in the ad hoc committee on the bill that, were the documents that informed the article classified, an offence would have been triggered if the act had been signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.


The journalists would have been prosecuted under clause 43, a disclosure offence, and clause 44, which dealt with possession of classified documents.

"What the journalists would have to do, guided by the bill, is say to their source that we can't publish this information. We have to take documents to the nearest police station and return [them], and we are going to have to ask for the documents under clause 19, and wait for that to unfold.

"After the court battles, we may be able to publish the information," he said.

The newspaper reported that Cele allegedly signed a R26m contract for the accommodation of 1 280 police officers during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The contract was awarded to Thoshan Panday, the owner of Goldcoast Trading, and was reportedly not put out to tender.

Officials had apparently claimed that there was no time to advertise the bid.

Serious consequence

Treasury rules state that all government contracts worth more than R500 000 should be put out to tender.

However, if the documents had been classified to hide corruption, that too would be an offence under the bill, said Milo. That was right, he said.

It was "a pretty serious consequence" to have the offences without a public interest counterbalance defence, Milo said.

He said Sanef was proposing a more flexible public interest override when classified documents were requested.

A public interest defence would signal a firm commitment to openness and transparency in democracy.

Repeating information

"We would say in principle that the public interest defence has to be there," he said.

Sanef also recommended that people who repeated information should not be punished.

"We have a number of South African cables published on "Wikileaks" which the media in South Africa published.

"If the bill was enforced, they couldn't do that without risking breaching some of the criminal prohibitions."

Sanef chairperson Nic Dawes told the committee that the insertion of a public interest clause in the bill would not give carte blanche to irresponsible journalism.

"We are here because we think the National Council of Provinces can take the final steps in making sure the bill is an instrument that keeps our democracy safe."

SA Human Rights Commission deputy chairperson Pregs Govender told the committee that information was central to building a human rights culture.

  • brendansan - 2012-03-27 18:00

    Yes, well that's the point.

      Gestoffle - 2012-03-27 18:33

      @sithole - and that point is what? The only point I see here is the mandate to cover up corruption by our democratically elected officials - moreover, that you, I and Joe Bloggs will never know about that going forward. Your freedom to knowledge/information has just had his wings clipped. Okay, just saying, so you vote for the government you want; only to find out later through the PRESS that they are corrupt. Would a normal person vote for them again? Another scenario, if the press don't report that corruption, you would be none the wiser and vote for that government again, right?....can anybody see my hidden agenda, reading between the lines point......

      brendansan - 2012-03-27 19:14

      @Gestoffle "If the bill had been enforced and documents had been classified under the bill, the journalists would be facing jail sentences," Thus the point of the bill. "so you vote for the government you want; only to find out later through the PRESS that they are corrupt." What makes you think the government I voted for is the ANCriminals? Assumption is the mother of all FA cups :)

      Gestoffle - 2012-04-05 12:02

      @sithole - You have answered my question with a question. Assumption? You have just assumed too! You assumed i was talking about you, when in fact it was hypothetical about any individual having the wool pulled over their eyes; or was your assuming brain trying to boast about this FA cup BS that you heard at some braai and thought was so funny you nearly p*ssed in your pants - and thought it appropriate here. Please dont ever be the first to comment, i would rather have somebody like "spyker may" have first comment, normally a worthwhile read........

  • bcluley - 2012-03-27 18:13

    ANC amandla!um.....not.useless bunch of idiots.

  • Shirley - 2012-03-27 18:13

    Of course it just bad luck for the cadres which were caught before full implementation! This is just to keep us in the dark while they strip the coffers bare!

  • Morne - 2012-03-27 18:26

    Well duh! Why do you think they want the bill in the first place?

  • Raj - 2012-03-27 21:09

    Define CLASSIFIED, I'd rather have NAME AND SHAME......

  • Grant - 2012-03-27 21:37

    In an ideal world the ANC would lose the next election. We would see how keen they would be to have the info bill and a multitude of other dodgy things they have introduced over the years.

  • Allen - 2012-03-27 23:35

    R26M for 1280 police persons to stay in luxury @ R20 000 each! Where did they stay? At the Oyster Box? This is total BS and a waste of out hard earned taxes!!! The cops are all criminals and cannot be respected by the public. What a shame!

  • George - 2012-03-28 02:02

    Will the courts invalidate the Info Bill due to it having been authored by the insane and approved by dunces.

  • George - 2012-03-28 02:06

    Mandela must be feeling a very lonely man. His ideals and aspirations frittered away in less than a generation. Poor guy. What a way to honor your best and brightest. The ancestors are really gone get angry.

  • John - 2012-03-28 06:47

    This is a perfect example of why the ANC wants this bill. When the bill is law (just a matter of time) then the ANCwill rob the country even more than now because no-one can touch them.

  • Harald - 2012-03-28 07:31

    I could not beleive it when I saw the "information Bill" add on TV (sabc 2 at about 6am)... Nearly fell off my chair!! Wow... brought to by the Dept of State Security... or rather the anc protection commitee!!

  • phinda.buthelezi - 2012-03-28 07:34

    Phansi nge Info Bill, Phansi. Why We did we fight for the freedom that we are now relinquishing back to the State?

  • Carry - 2012-03-28 07:38


  • an0nthinker - 2012-03-28 08:23

    This, if anything, is a perfect example of why the info bill cannot be passed. If they stealing so carefully now, I can only imagine what will happen if the bill passes. Our country will be stripped bare and we the people will be left with nothing!!

  • Morama - 2012-03-28 08:39

    We are stuffed as law abiding citizens!!! ANC want to cover up their thieveness...That's all!!!

  • stalin.rudolf - 2012-03-29 15:39

    ANC was concieved under apartheid rule, now i understand their position, " THEY ARE GOING BACK TO THEIR ROOTS," now they are applying the same draconian laws that were applied by the former masters

  • Ricardo - 2012-04-02 16:09

    It would be real sad for democracy, Service Delivery and the ordinary people of this country, if this bill was to be passed. With the amount of corruption we've seen so far, a True Leader would take measures to disclose corruption, as appose to concealing it......a real shame indeed!

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