Info bill: Win for whistleblowers

2012-05-10 22:34

Cape Town - The African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday moved to protect journalists and whistleblowers as part of a raft of proposed changes to the protection of state information bill, which is arguably the most contested legislation since the end of apartheid.

These ruling party proposed a compromise on a public interest defence as a way of protecting those who risk prison to expose state wrongdoing.

ANC members of the National Council of Provinces' ad hoc committee processing the bill proposed that section 43, which criminalises revealing classified information, made an explicit exception for cases where "such disclosure reveals criminal activity".

Under the proposal, this section would also enable those charged with disclosure to argue in their defence that the information was wrongly classified to begin with.

The ANC also moved to amend section 49 of the draft act, which has been widely criticised for criminalising the disclosure of information relating to any state security matter. It had been seen as tantamount to drawing a veil over the activities of intelligence agents.

The proposed change would make it a crime only to reveal classified state information relating to security matters.

These two sections were among those singled out for criticism by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi in a submission to Parliament in late March when he threatened to challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court unless it were rewritten.

Vavi had charged that by creating a climate of secrecy and fear, the legislation risked turning South Africa into a police state reminiscent of the apartheid regime.

Other key changes proposed by ANC MP Siphiwo Mazosiwe was to strike the remaining provisions for minimum sentences from the bill and to remove the words "ought reasonably to have known" in relation to offences throughout the bill.

This would have a significant impact on the burden of proof on the state in court cases brought under the act.

For instance, in espionage cases -- where those accused risk 25 years in jail - the state would have to prove that the person in the dock knew that his actions would benefit a foreign state.

The amendment would address a criticism raised by veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos that lawmakers had wrongly reversed the burden of in crimes like espionage, and that people risked "going to jail for 25 years for being stupid".

The inclusion of an explicit defence of wrongful classification also responds to a point raised by Bizos, who famously defended Mandela on treason charges.


Thursday's concessions from the ANC came hours after State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele told reporters he would welcome any initiatives that would help the bill to pass constitutional muster.

Cwele has always insisted that he would not countenance a public interest defence as it would amount to "shredding" the bill.

ANC sources said on Thursday that the amendment - which resembles an alternative proposed by the Democratic Alliance - would cover whistleblowers without creating the spectre the minister feared of people disclosing vital state secrets and then invoking the public interest.

DA MP Alf Lees commented: "It does not go far enough but it really is a welcome alternative. It is an exemption clause, which means you cannot be charged. We hope we can now build that into a full public interest defence clause."

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told Sapa the ANC's proposals "sound encouraging".

The Right 2 Know Campaign however said the ruling party had "failed to heed country-wide calls for a public interest defence".

It said some "positive half-steps were made today" but the bill still contained grave flaws that needed to be addressed.

The ruling party has in recent days again resisted calls from the opposition to scrap section 1(4) which states that it trumps the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), because it would almost certainly be found unconstitutional.

However, the ANC did propose on Thursday to sanction disclosure in section 43 where it is "required" by any other act.

Lees said this appeared to be a clumsy nod to PAIA but did not work as long as section 1 (4) stood.

The committee was due to report to the NCOP on the bill on Tuesday, but resolved on Thursday to seek an extention of its reporting deadline to June 30.

Chairperson Raseriti Tau said the committee would invite the department of state security to give its views on the proposed changes to the bill.

Once the bill has been revised by the NCOP, it has to be sent back to the National Assembly.

  • slymsloot - 2012-05-10 22:42

    this is good news... but im still worried?! As a south african are you?!

      Squeegee - 2012-05-10 22:46

      This is progress, but we are not where we want to be yet...

      Grace - 2012-05-10 23:29

      Squeegee thiS is NOT progress, its propaganda to gain votes! Like everything else.. Its a lie!

      Dee - 2012-05-11 00:00

      Yes. Still worried. There are more sections on military that need review. Concession on the most publicly debated a Trojan Horse?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-11 06:28

      This is not progress, it is a game !! The ANC will NEVER allow others to run this country. When the need comes, the ,original, info bill, plus many other measures will come in place to ,protect, the ruling party. The ANC is arrogant and power mad, and a threat to our democracy !!

      Smell - 2012-05-11 06:31

      Whether it was because of the right kind of pressure (Concourt challenge) by the right kind of person (Vavi) or not, I applaud the ANC leadership for belatedly coming to its senses on this issue. I always give credit where credit is due. So also a big thank you to Mr. Vavi. This country can only be saved if the smart and educated Africans make their voices heard above the din of the demagogues that wishes to take us down the road of failure and destruction.

      Squeegee - 2012-05-11 07:30

      Grace, the progress is that the ANC is starting to realize that the citizens of SA are not just going to accept everything the gov throws at them...

      Gieljam - 2012-05-11 08:39

      Dont let the Smoke get into your eyes ......

      GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 11:38

      Rubbish - read my comments a little bit down the line... No amendment to an opressive measure can be acceptable. Amandla!

  • Grant - 2012-05-10 22:42

    The ANC listened to the public's discontent and made changes accordingly?! I don't know how to feel... it feels extremely odd when your government actually listens to you for a change. Very unfamiliar feeling indeed.

  • Michele - 2012-05-10 22:45

    1 step at a time, takes the ANC painfully long to do the right thing.

      smbonani - 2012-05-11 01:49

      They did say it moves like an elephant. I realised one thing though, that if we can put aside our differences we the citizens of this country (black

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:04

      A vote for the opposition will chivvy the anc laggards, give them a fright! Vote DA to give the anc a fright!

  • Mark - 2012-05-10 22:45

    Ah no, the wolf only feigns domestication!

  • Crracker - 2012-05-10 23:06

    "where "such disclosure reveals criminal activity". NO. Don't fall for it. Who must prove that what is whistle-blowed or reported on is in FACT a criminal activity? No. Don't fall for it. ANY improper or suspicious activity or state of affairs must be allowed to be reported on and the public must be allowed to make up their minds what they make of it. Why not? If it is clean and innocuous nobody will even care to think about it. If not, where there is smoke there must be fire. We must not fall the "hardegat" approach superseded by a so-called conciliatory or reasonably approach. Old tactic. All suspicious activities must be reportable without the threat of criminal or any other kind of threats like interdicts to prevent reporting based on the assumption that it has not been shown that the reportable incident is of a criminal activity nature. We ALL live in this country. We ALL own it. It does not matter which political party you support. Legislation will affect you and it may depend on who holds the levers and mechanisms of secrecy laws to "fix" you. You may find that the same group that enticed you to support the secrecy laws may in future (even the near future) be controlled by a group or faction not so favorable to you. So-called secrets are for those who have reason to keep secrets. They want to exclude the rest of us. As if they have the sole occupational right of our thoughts. The latter, as far as memory allows, was not on the ballot papers. Not even once.

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:06

      Right! The anc do not have a mandate for this bill. Vote DA to mandate the anc out! Get rid of the crooks. Get rid of the totalitarian despots!

  • Nicholas - 2012-05-10 23:10

    Public pressure and the courts are fast becoming the norm when it comes to forcing this government into doing the right thing

      Juan - 2012-05-11 03:11

      Thank God for that, so we don't have a dictatorship just yet

      Sganja - 2012-05-11 04:03

      I agree with public pressure because people must govern but for courts to be used for cheap politics by Madam i.m against that.

      Piet - 2012-05-11 07:00

      Sganja, you are a racist just like me....

      Peter - 2012-05-11 07:49

      @Sganja - You are a complete fool, the kids in the ANC use the courts for the exact same reason you are against zille using them, yet you are so blindly racist and ignorant im surprised you can actually read or write.... Nvm you obviously cant do either showing by your comments stupid racist communist

      Gigo - 2012-05-11 08:04

      I'm neither a fool nor racist,I'm just stating facts.

      Nicholas - 2012-05-11 08:19

      The "facts" are that the courts are there to protect the South African public from greedy, power hungry politicians, no matter who uses them.

      Peter - 2012-05-11 08:40

      @Sganja - Then state the facts about the ANC who you blindly seem to defend no matter what they do, your comments are never seen in articles where the ANC fails. Your are a troll and a racist fool and thats also a fact

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:16

      @Sganja - You might not be racist but you are certainly a fool! Vote DA, Sganja, and join the world respected section of the population. The anc is not respected in the big-wide-world. Except maybe by North Korea. Vote DA, plain and simple.

  • Crracker - 2012-05-10 23:14


      watsongeorgejan - 2012-05-11 01:13

      And i can tell you that wont be hard to prove because they don't even ecxel in what they're good at (thieving).

      Jimmy - 2012-05-11 06:50

      In other words WE, the PUBLIC, are GUILTY until proved innocent.

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-05-10 23:16

    The general election is around the corner. The ANC will do anything to regain lost support. They will appear to be more and more reasonable. Trust them at your peril. Once the Bill is passed, it can be amended or abused at leisure. It simply must be scrapped. Now.

      Dee - 2012-05-11 00:03


      watsongeorgejan - 2012-05-11 01:05

      They don't want to alienate Cosatu with Mangaung also just around the corner. That's a patronising move towards Cosatu but, once the incumbent leadership triumphs at Mangaung it will be a different story. Let's hope they don't do the Juju on Cosatu..Eish.

  • Grace - 2012-05-10 23:22

    If there NO secrets just stop the 'biLl' altogether - why have CLAUSES? I don't trust the ANC... They the ones who motivated this bill

  • tobydt - 2012-05-10 23:47

    Vavi is getting waaay too much credit for this. This was an effort by countless South Africans, signing petitions, protesting in the R2K marches, people getting vocal about it on the internet, and those sitins in parlaiment. Vavi my @ss, South Africans achieved this victory.

      Crracker - 2012-05-10 23:52

      If Vavi thought he could benefit from secrecy laws he would've supported them.

      Sganja - 2012-05-11 03:58

      Dont be jealous,Vavi is a main character here.I salute him

      Phae - 2012-05-11 07:18

      Sganja, with that childish comment its no wonder you can't comprehend how this came about and who was involved, and its not over yet.

      tobydt - 2012-05-11 07:34

      Sganja - Just like the ANC single-handedly ended apartheid :P

      Genet - 2012-05-11 08:06

      You are absolutely correct. All South Africans acheived this victory, and we must keep on doing the same.

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:26

      @Sganja - Read my post above uses the word "fool". It still applies to you. If however you mend your ways and vote for an opposition party I will change the "fool" to "respected". Your choice.

  • Kaven - 2012-05-11 00:03

    suspicious, that's an understatement to the government for treating all South Africans as if we are uneducated & intellectually challenged like them. Thinking that a half-way finished job is satisfactory and will suffice our needs for REAL constitutional rights? blasphemy is what i say to our government. treat us better or beheaded you shall be. For the throne is not suited for you no more!

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-05-11 00:06

    If anybody thinks this is a "win for whistleblowers", consider Glynnis Breytenbach : The Bill is'nt even passed yet - she was still rummaging in her handbag to find the whistle, and... Remember the threats against Thuli Madonsela...until she was reminded that she is still an ANC member? This is the same ANC that is trying to get YOU to accept their stoopid Bill. Unbelieve a Bill ! Laughabill ! Deplorabill ! Horribill ! Despicabill ! Terribill ! Contemptibill !

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:29

      The anc are lacking in aBILLity!

  • ESETHU_HASANE - 2012-05-11 00:09

    Democracy in ACTION....The citizens cried and the government heard them....even if the Bill has some flaws, the point is no Dictator tendencies happened... Amandla!!! South Africans, Amandla!!! R2K campaign, Amandla Cosatu..... and amandla d.a (mind the small letterS) LOL ;D

      Crracker - 2012-05-11 00:31

      Wish we could be so sure. We really need the maximum exposure to information. We simply cannot afford to trust ANYBODY anymore. Most of all, not the politicians. Who do they think they or their so-called little hobby horses like intelligence agencies and twaddle are that they trump the rest of us?

  • billidp - 2012-05-11 00:28

    It's a START!!

  • sakhi.TheNextKent.dlala - 2012-05-11 02:52


      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:36

      Right, The People spoke! If the anc's big majority is chopped by The People in the next election it will stop this irresponsible behavior by the anc. Vote for the opposition in the next elections!

  • Danie - 2012-05-11 03:48

    Is it not amazing, how the ordinary poor black ANC supporters , gave permission to their leaders , to rob them of their last sents, without they having any chance to stop them? And next time they would they vote for the same highway robbers?

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:39

      @Danie - I think that there are a lot of poor people who are waking up to the stupidity of the anc. Not even the poorest wants a totalitarian state!

  • Sganja - 2012-05-11 04:08

    But this wont save other leaders,we are clear uyangena U Mbalula.Well done Vavi and others.

  • Gerald Jordaan - 2012-05-11 04:58

    The corrupt ANC will not succeed in covering up their plundering by way of cr*p legislation!!Not by a long shot!!

  • braamc - 2012-05-11 05:44

    This proposed bill needs to be scraped, you can't trust the cANCer

  • Tsietsi - 2012-05-11 06:23

    This has been a good few weeks for the people. First, the e-tolls are postponed indefinitely then the info bill is amended. It shows that we, the people, can determine our destiny. What's next, people?

      Susan - 2012-05-11 08:48

      There is so such thing as a free lunch, someone always pays..

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:41

      @Tseitsi - What is next is to vote against the totalitarian anc oligarchs!

      GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 12:30

      What's next Tsietsi??? Why a totally different government, of course. Death to the ANC! DOWN with the OPRESSORS OF THE PEOPLE! AMA-A-A-A-A-ANLDA-A-A-A! VIVA FREEDOM!!!

  • Sean - 2012-05-11 06:39

    It is great thank, some head way is being made with this. However nowhere close to good enough.

  • Jigant1c - 2012-05-11 06:41

    We don't want a change in this bill. We want to see it destroyed completely.It seems that the people need protection from this government and not the government getting protection to continue to cover up there theft and graft that is so rife in all tiers of gov.

  • Phelamanga - 2012-05-11 06:44

    The definition "criminal activity" is too vague. E-tolling and the parking scandal are criminal in intent, but appear to be legal, because it's not the act of tolling that is illegal, it's how the funds are disbursed and to whom that is criminal. If every cent were to be spent on improving the infrastructure, all good an well, but if millions of Rands are going to be going towards inflating another person's wallet, then there's corruption, which is criminal. This whole bending backwards by the ANC and COSATU taking the credit stinks to high heaven. Do not rest, South Africa,until there is liberation from the greedy, corrupt,wealthy minority elite who spend more time thinking about getting wealthier than running the country efficiently and responsibly.

      GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 12:34

      DEATH TO THE LOCUSTS!!!!! (Remember those little dudes in the Biblical plague....) YEAH WELL, SINCE WE ARE 'RACIST' WHEN WE REFER TO THEIR SKIN COLOUR (which isn't really the issue at all - there is just so much WRONG with these people!) THEY SHALL HENCE FORTH BE KNOWN AS LOCUSTS!!!! AMANDLA!

  • Tamaranui - 2012-05-11 06:56

    Now this is an option better aligned to the constitution,

  • Sechaba30 - 2012-05-11 07:13

    Courts are used left and right, I think I should have been a lawyer.

  • kabelo.leballo - 2012-05-11 07:15

    We are slowly but surely progressing...

  • Sheralee - 2012-05-11 07:53

    A failed state is a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. In order to make this definition more precise, the following attributes, proposed by the Fund for Peace, are often used to characterize a failed state: loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein, erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide public services, and an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. Often a failed state is characterized by social, political, and/or economic failure. Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.[1] The level of government control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities.[2] Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:45

      Well said, Jones! All you need now is to get Zuma to read your post! I do believe that he can read.

      GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 12:37

      READ? Maybe not even..... He has no formal schooling, see. Didn't spend a day on a school bench...

  • Marion - 2012-05-11 07:54

    Mdluli relocated and changes to section 49 a couple of days later? mmmm A few steps in the right direction. Think the government is at last starting to realize that the people govern and that we will not be led meekly to the slaughter. Thanks to all those who have taken up the fight on our behalf.

  • MSGRule - 2012-05-11 07:55

    Smoke and mirrors to let the opposition parties and the public feel more at ease. the cANCer cant be trusted. They have not given anyone any reason to trust them since they started.

      GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 12:46

      I feel very very sorry for the ANC government... They are starting to show the same desperation and grasping at straws, trying to stick a band-aid plaster on a countryful of troubles and hoping it would miraculously stretch to cover the counry, that the PW Botha government did way back when..... They're falling and they know it....

  • Sheralee - 2012-05-11 07:57

    This change to the information bill is not a "win" for our country . . . it just goes to prove that the government is focussing on the wrong areas. The should be looking to improve services, socio-economic conditions etc before trying to cover their own butts.

  • Susan - 2012-05-11 08:46

    The ANC always bulldozes their way open, if they agreed to this, there is some alterior motive somewhere.............

  • mzijimmym - 2012-05-11 10:53

    Hooray! Hooray!and thanks God almighty for this small victory. Viva comrades Vavi,Bizos,The Right2Know movement and all the press people as wel as thousand of freedom loving South Africans who fought tirelessly for this.The ANC (THE ORGANISATION I HAVE ALWAYS VOTED FOR)strengly did not want us to know the truth.The Bible say the thruth shall set you free!

      Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:49

      So now vote for the opposition. Let the truth be told.

  • Glyn - 2012-05-11 11:00

    Half measure! I smell a rat as it does not go far enough. I think that the anc wanted section 1(4) and the rest was just a smoke screen. They in fact are getting what they originally wanted! Section 1(4) is unconstitutional! Vote DA for justice!

  • GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 11:19


  • GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 11:26

    Listen, you young ones - don't be fooled. Stay as pessimistic as possible. We have come FULL CIRCLE back to an APARTHEID STYLE Government. We older folks have see this all. The ONLY way for the ANC to change is for the people to FORCE it into change. Yeah, they are looking to Mangaung/Bloemfontein and 2014; why do you think they suddenly are courting AFRIKANERS again? Just goes to show pressure is working.

  • GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 11:30

    The new wave of racism (on both sides, whites and blacks) was started by the ANC government and fuelled by their policies. God forbid if a black kid is refused participation in sport trials in North West; but on a daily basis whites are refused participation in the workplace and business by BEE laws. Racist laws which simply state: "You ain't getting a job if your skin is white." or "You ain't getting government tenders cos you are white."

  • GatvolGrieta - 2012-05-11 11:35

    The GOOD NEWS is with Zuma's TOLLGATE SCANDAL (as opposed to Nixon's Watergate) the ANC have FELT IT, that they are not invincible. They will do what is necessary to appear open and concerned. Don't believe them, but play it to our advantage. Whatever their motive, we want the results. A snake remains a snake and it does what it needs to, to survive. So make it do what it 'needs to' so we can move in with the spade and sever its head...

  • lhfick - 2012-05-13 04:40

    If this bill gets a green light we all lose. Just like in the previous era where we had no say and if you did speak you were silenced! While I can still voice my opinion. This government is making is making the same mistakes as the previous one.

  • Lilia - 2012-05-13 16:29

    I saw scrap the Bill completely, it will just lead to uneccessary issues and problems later.

  • Danie - 2012-05-17 03:52

    ? Is it really a concession?Would the journalist be rotting in jail, before the criminal, case are in court, where it can decide if they wrote about a crime

  • Aggrey - 2012-05-17 04:14

    other than wasting time debating rubbish such as the so called info-bill, parliament has so much on their feet to debate. Service provision violence, rape, murder, highjacking and dagga smoking decriminalization. Its so expensive for the government for nothing. Never ever will there be secrets in the world. Taps can be effected easily by a grade six toddler with access to mid level smart phones. One night my kid overhead a top boss in the government fuming why the President is not reshuffling and appointing a Minister of sex in the Presidency to be responsible for the protection of our girlfriends and daughters. The chief is considering the suggestion and Trevor is excited. His 2090 development goals will be achieved. Less brats to be conceived.

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