Info bill hearings manipulated, critics say

2012-02-02 18:15

Cape Town - Opposition politicians and activists accused the ANC on Thursday of manipulating hearings on the protection of state information bill.

They claimed this was being done to mislead the public and manufacture support for the contested draft law.

The Democratic Alliance said at a hearing in Port Elizabeth, one of three that took place in the Eastern Cape on Thursday, that members of the party had been denied a chance to speak.

DA MP Alf Lees said the microphone had been turned off when speakers colloquially referred to the proposed legislation as the "secrecy bill".

"Shutting out feedback that embarrasses the ANC is in stark contrast to Mr [Raseriti] Tau's calls for broad public participation," he said, referring to the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces' ad hoc committee processing the bill.

"The ANC went to great lengths to manufacture public support for the secrecy bill."

Lees claimed the ruling party had bused supporters to a hearing in Barkly East and "effectively turned the event into an ANC rally".

"There was a clear attempt to project the image at that hearing that the bill is broadly accepted by the public".

Tau rejected the claim.

"Anybody who says I tried to shut the DA down is lying because the majority of people at the hearing were from the DA, down to wearing DA T-shirts."

The Right2Know campaign complained that the ANC misrepresented the bill at the first two public hearings on the bill held in the Western Cape earlier in the week.

"It is deceptive because the way the bill is introduced contains glaring omissions on its substance," said Murray Hunter, the national co-ordinator of the campaign.

"People were not given a chance to read and apply their mind to something they are asked to sign off on. The way in which it is being done is not conducive to debate."

Ruling party MPs presenting the bill skimmed over a contentious clause on espionage, but stressed those seeking to safeguard personal information in state hands, Hunter said.

He said there were barely a handful of copies of the bill available at the first public meeting on the bill in Thembalethu outside George, and no sign of a promised two-page synopsis.

Hunter conceded that those who attended hearings should inform themselves about the bill, but said many of the 300 people present at the Thembalethu hearing told him "they were called there and did not know what it was about".

At the same time, he said, NCOP chief whip Nosipho Ntwanambi charged that speakers representing the Right2Know campaign were paid to attend the hearing.

The NCOP committee said in a statement it was satisfied with the meeting in Thembalethu and a second one held in Gugulethu on Tuesday.

It conceded the bill "elicited mixed reactions" from participants, and that Tau had acknowledged there had not been enough copies of the bill.

"We relied on Parliament's communications service and there was a problem."

The ad hoc committee plans to hold at least two public hearings in every province, ending with the Northern Cape on March 1.

This would be followed by a further hearing at Parliament a fortnight later.

On Thursday, a third meeting in the Eastern Cape was held in Mthatha.

The ANC drove the bill through the National Assembly in November despite widespread concern that it would inhibit investigative media reporting and whistle-blowing on corruption.

It criminalises possession and publication of classified information and introduces prison sentences of up to five years for the latter. If the information relates to the intelligence services, the maximum jail term goes up to 15 years.

Media houses, civil rights groups and the Congress of SA Trade Unions have vowed to challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court if it is adopted without incisive amendments.

  • Eduard - 2012-02-02 18:35

    the pain continues where there is smoke, there is fire and in this case greedy out of control ones. The ANC is not telling the public everything. period

      Malcolm - 2012-02-07 09:49

      Yes Eduard, a referendum is certainly required.

  • Comrade - 2012-02-02 18:48

    ANC liked APPARTHEID so much...they are COPYING IT

  • kalosi.ramakhula - 2012-02-02 19:35

    The truth behind all these noises made by the media and the opposition is that they want to have the freedom to rule South Africa through the media. Also they want the right to insult those who do not serve their interests without any fear of being questioned. As they did with Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang (May her soul rest in peace) South African Media is out of order period ! Something has to be done to reign them in...RACIST!

  • ISO - 2012-02-02 20:30

    ANC you are scandalous!!! Like all other rallies they call on people to join and most of the time the people dont even know why they are there! Just come around there is plenty to eat and drink!

      Jymiro - 2012-02-02 20:36

      Can you tell me the policies of the DA or AWB which ever you belong to. For record I am not ANC.

      ISO - 2012-02-02 21:08

      I vote DA for the plain and simple reason that they want to serve the people of this country, they are diverse, practical and democratic in all means of the word. If the ANC was a better party i would vote for them, but my common sence and logic tells me otherwise. Only a fool is blinded by ignorance! As a matter of fact, i dislike the AWB for what they stand for, they have no place in our society!!!

      ISO - 2012-02-02 21:15

      The ANC outcasted Mbeki because of his view on Aids and Zim, right! Yet JZ view on aids was even worst (showerhead) and no progress was made in Zim after JZ came into rule..... The only president that made a diffirence in the country was Mr Mandela, the rest has just degrading SA.

  • ISO - 2012-02-02 20:49

    Let the people of SA vote if the bill should be implemented or not!! And i will bet you that it will not!! If you are not an inyoka, then you dont have anything to hide!, but the ANC wants this bill because of their corruption and irregularities!

  • Sameegh Migo Jappie - 2012-02-02 20:57

    The question begs to be asked.. Does the ANC really want the public to participate? I live in George, work in a very relevant government department but yet I had no idea the public hearings were taking place in George. Its probably just a window dressing to be able to say they did have hearings on this matter and rubberstamp it through Parliament.

  • Mark - 2012-02-02 22:45

    Only scrapping this tainted bill will improve it.

  • andy.beak - 2012-02-03 10:54

    Time for another armed struggle :-) Bring me my machine gun!

  • Barry - 2012-02-14 19:08

    Who's in charge here? Let us make one thing very clear. an elected Government is put there by the people, for the people. The people decide, not Government. Government is there to carry out the will of the people. The people do not want the bill then they do not accept it and let Government know in no uncertain terms. You want to know why this works? Just watch Sanral get their butts kicked.

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