Info bill not scrapped, finalised by year-end

2011-09-19 22:36

Cape Town - The ANC postponed Parliament's vote on the protection of state information bill at the eleventh hour on Monday for further consultation, but said the legislation would be finalised by the end of the year.

Ruling party Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said the decision was made because interest groups, which he declined to name, had asked for another chance to make input on the state secrets legislation.

"If we have sections of society saying they still need to be heard... we have to listen to them.

"Even over this weekend, people were marching. Our view is that the door of this Parliament, of the ANC, is open. We are ready to listen to the people at all times," he told reporters after an ANC caucus meeting, referring to a protest against the bill on Saturday.

"We are not debating this bill tomorrow because we genuinely want the people to have their further say."

Pressed for a timeframe, he said: "By the end of the year, we are going to finalise this bill."

The bill was expected to be passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday, thanks to the ANC's overwhelming majority and despite threats from the opposition, media and rights groups to take it on constitutional review.

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) welcomed the decision, saying the bill remained "deeply flawed".

Motshekga strenuously denied media reports that the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) was split over the bill, which critics see as an infringement of freedom of expression.

"I don't know where they get that from. I was at the NEC and the NEC has deployed us to Parliament," he said.

Neither Motshekga, nor Cecil Burgess, who chairs the ad hoc committee that drafted the bill, would say whether the decision to put it on hold came about because of further pressure by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Burgess told reporters: "Cosatu is family and I don't like to discuss family matters in public."

It is a lie

The trade union federation and ANC alliance partner welcomed the decision, as did the Democratic Alliance and the Right 2 Know Campaign.

"We would welcome the announcement today that the bill has been withdrawn from the house's schedule for debate for further discussion," said Cosatu parliamentary representative Prakashnee Govender.

In May, Cosatu threatened to challenge the legislation in the Constitutional Court, prompting the ANC to announce significant concessions on a bill that has garnered more opposition than any other post-apartheid legislation.

These included limiting the power to classify information to the security and intelligence services and scrapping minimum prison sentences for offenders.

ANC MP Luwellyn Landers conceded on Monday that the issue of increased protection for whistle-blowers, who reveal secret information to expose wrongdoing by the state, had not been settled between the alliance partners.

He said Cosatu wanted the ANC to write a so-called public interest defence into the bill, but that the ANC remained convinced that this flew in the face of international practice.

The defence would allow those charged with revealing classified information and faced with punishment of up to five years in prison to argue that they had acted in the public interest.

Media and the opposition contend that its exclusion makes the bill unconstitutional.

"We have made provision for whistle-blowers and we hear the lie that is being perpetrated out there that there is no provision for whistle-blowers. It is a lie," said Landers.

"Until we are convinced otherwise, our position on the public interest defence has not changed," he said.

Asked for comment, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said he stood by his earlier position that allowing a public interest defence would be "to shred the bill even before it becomes law".

"I have not changed my mind. That is still my view," he told Sapa.

Finding a balance

Explaining Cosatu's position, Govender said that including a public interest defence would be one way of balancing the need to protect legitimate state secrets for the sake of national security with the public's right to information.

"For us, it is about finding a balance, whatever the mechanism. A public interest defence is one way of ensuring that you have an override.

"You cannot have a blanket prohibition on disclosure if this means information that should be exposed is suppressed."

Sanef said this was an important opportunity to ensure that the proposed legislation met the standards required in an open and democratic society.

"A law worthy of our democracy cannot criminalise the publication of information that reveals corruption, human rights abuses, or the abuse of state resources for political ends," Sanef said in a statement.

"It must ensure that the grounds of classification are sufficiently narrow to prevent officials from using it to draw a veil of secrecy across the workings of government," it said.

  • Ohmikehunt - 2011-09-19 23:04

    I just can't understand what all the fuss is about. Secrets are secrets and not for publication in the media. Get over it!

      King Cheetah - 2011-09-19 23:21

      Mike its NOT just about secrets hahaha!!! and its NOT only about the you learn what it entails or STFU!!! or are you another ANC puppet???

      Craig Louw - 2011-09-19 23:29

      Richard - 2011-09-19 23:47

      @Ohmikehunt... DIRTY SECRETS!! Media keep the government on their toes.

      Lawence - 2011-09-20 01:15

      Secrets like Oilgate and Travelgate and . . . and. Are you an ANC MP?

      Nasdaq7 - 2011-09-20 03:41

      Corruption secrets of mal emas.

      Henk - 2011-09-20 06:46

      Tsotsis, Terrorists and Cockrouches like the darkness!

      Worldwise - 2011-09-20 06:59

      Mike, my wife held a top secret clearance and I held a secret clearance. I can promise you that information the government want to stifle would never fit into these categories. The info act seeks to cover up corruption, something that should never be kept secret.

      Lyndatjie - 2011-09-20 07:17

      @Ohmikehunt - you are without a doubt either a troll or have the mental acumen of a politician....

      RichardS - 2011-09-20 07:27

      There are national security issues, which conceivably should be protected, but the general fuss is that: 1) definition of national security not clearly defined; 2) definition of official who may classify national security issue not clearly defined - so under current definition, a local councillor could conceivable stamp a document a state secret; 3) harsh penalties for anyone, not just media, for exposing a document so stamped "state secret", without allowing an exemption for exposure in the public interest - i.e., even exposure of a corrupt process around the document subject to penalties. The list goes on, but in any event the bill will not pass constitutional scrutiny.

      DougSeanWest - 2011-09-20 08:16

      You are a troll Ohmikehunt. Is this the best job you could get in post apartheid SA?

      AllHoliday - 2011-09-20 11:55

      @Ohmikehunt, you cannot be serious! How can you not understand that the whole ploy with the bill is to hide their corruption, genocide, etc from the outside world. In a nutshell they want to jail 'whisle blowers' under the pretence that everything is a 'state secret'. Government can then squander or tax money for their own political gain and to line their own pockets and all they have to say is that it is a secret state matter. Why all of a sudden this new bill? Surely there is a law in place to protect 'real state secrets' and to protect the country against leaking info that can be a thread to the country! It's just a scam!

  • King Cheetah - 2011-09-19 23:26

    Parliament goes into recession long before year end.... SO why all the NON Truths again ANC...??? You going to sneek it through and then go enyoy your xmas at the expense of citizens huh.... typical!!!!!!!

  • crackerr - 2011-09-19 23:32

    Asked for comment, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said he stood by his earlier position that allowing a public interest defence would be "to shred the bill even before it becomes law". ____________________________________________________________________ Think it through what you are saying, Mr Cwele. It might just dawn on you why the logic being employed makes so little sense. It's obvious.

      zaatheist - 2011-09-20 04:20

      Well pointed out. A blatant admission that the bill is not in the public interest.

      Atholl - 2011-09-20 07:34

      Cracker Cracker'ed the truth behind the lies: 'sections of society saying they still need to be heard... we have to listen to them' .... that's Goebbels-speak ... same as Politic-speak. .... Scrap Scorpions ... public outcry .... no need to be heard ... action proven unconstitutional. Secrecy Bill ... public outcry ... no need to be heard ... These 'lawmakers' ..-.. when their 'laws' are proven unconstitutional ..-.. should be ordered to pay personal punitive costs ie. pay for their own legal defence and the defence of the other successful party from their own pockets. These politicians think/speak that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is a game.

      Julian - 2011-09-20 07:40

      Atholl, you are absolutely correct, and I am really disappointed that I can only click the thumbs up once. If a rule is shown to be unconstitutional, then the politicians who refused to withdraw it should be forced to pay costs.

  • michael - 2011-09-19 23:38

    How short one's memory becomes - does nobody with just one brain cell remember the ' Official Secrets ' act of the Nationalist Party that allowed all kinds of dirty shenanigan's to take place ? It should be a national contest - who is the most stupid and brain dead - the NP or the ANC ? Can this plague of defective politician human waste ever be diverted from our society ? This can just not carry on !

      Redson - 2011-09-20 02:30

      Tigga - 2011-09-20 11:25

      Same trough.. Different pigs. Politicians are all the same, and none have anything but power in mind.

  • Boxxer - 2011-09-20 01:20

    Transparency is not in the African National Criminals vocabulary.

  • realist4sale - 2011-09-20 03:54

    if they pass this bill.......then they are free to cover up all coruption and god forbid ppl like malema get involved......remember 'shoot hte boers' well tht translates to kill all white ppl.........this will be an extermination.......whites stand up and fight for your rights.......democracy.........not black powered apartheid

      Kevin - 2011-09-20 07:01

      Sad that bthe anc has so many sheep in the party. All guilty of more then stupidity.

  • lapfa - 2011-09-20 04:34

    This is a less important debate. The debate should be how can the country create jobs. Secrecy bill or no secrecy bill is not going to make the biggest problem of unemployment in the country go away. People need jobs. What do you Sas think the solution is?

      Julian - 2011-09-20 07:49

      Lapfa, do you have any idea how much money has been stolen due to corruption? Do you realise how many jobs could have been created with the defrauded money? Lastly, do you know how much worse the looting will become if it can be hidden? If this Bill passes, say goodbye to jobs.

  • Mandla - 2011-09-20 05:05

    The majority have given the parliamant the go ahead with the bill,we can not be held at ransom by the minority groups who want to infridge our rights as the majority.We voted for you to do things on our behalf so that is it go ahead.If the minority groups can pertition the majority then there is no need for elections as our vote will be regarded useles by the minority challenges.

      Felix - 2011-09-20 08:42

      Why are there service delivery protests then? If the majority thought the same crap as you they would accept that no service was what's best for them. Eat up troll.

      King Cheetah - 2011-09-20 09:23

      hahah Mandla you to cute CHILD.... what this delay means is that you voted for uneducated, self infatuated bigots and frauds that have NO interest in you or anyone else but themselves!!! So wake up you silly PATHETIC child and get off yr parents PC and go to school FFS!! Not sit in some shebeen and talk crap and politics which you know NOTHING about.... HAHAHA!!! AT THE INFO BILL BEING CONFUSED WITH GENERAL VOTING....HAHAHA!!!...Now one can see HOW MALEMA THE "TJOKALOSH" has indoctrinated them all LOL

      RichardS - 2011-09-20 09:55

      Mandla, I think I am in the majority, but in a democratic state, there are constitutional limitations to the will of the majority or legislature or parliament. I for one, would like the actions of my representatives to be 1) transparent, to the maximum extent possible, (subject to limitations on national security); 2) to act with a clear mandate (no ambiguous definitions as to what constitutes national security, who the official that is allowed to classify a document "top secret for national security purposes"; 3) exceptions to the general rule as to when a document may be exposed in the public arena, (such as if the process was corrupt, and in the public interest to expose). In these cases, I would not even mind if whoever (the media, a journalist) who wants to publish a document, first is required to petition a judge, for permission to publish because the public interest in the information outweighs the national security interests in the particular facts of that case. Otherwise, we are no better from whence we come...

  • Prof - 2011-09-20 06:26

    Not all the information should be accessed by the media, but the problem is that my fellow comrades will hide even the information related to corruption.

  • Kevin - 2011-09-20 06:58

    Told you they cannot do the right thing. Not if you have so much to hide ev en if it is done with the taxpayers money and constitutional rights

  • WesGeek - 2011-09-20 06:58

    Yes, and then you will NEVER hear about the TRAVEL bill on a credit card of MILLLLLLIONS. Mushroom Syndrome, kept in the dark and fed BULLS@$T. The ANC want to keep everything in the dark and if you do not have anything to hide, why then take FREEDOM OF SPEECH away. Freedom People.

  • Dirk du Plessis - 2011-09-20 06:59

    Check them put the act in place.... they love money to much they will split on their buddies to make a few extra bob, just another way to get money in diffrent pockets-

  • braamc - 2011-09-20 07:02

    The DA will win this in the constitutional court. Anc thinks they are above the law, let us see, this is going to be a good fight and eish old boy we'll fight for our right of freedom of speach!

  • marcelminnaar - 2011-09-20 07:05

    So one day we all will become rebels and over-throw the government for freedom....

  • Sentor - 2011-09-20 07:06

    This is a strategy so often used, sneak it through before the Christmas break when the country is focused on holidays. Well it won't work this time!

  • Streetdreams - 2011-09-20 08:01

    AnC has messed up the education system, naw they know majority of the people dont understand what this bill will do for the country. How many corrupt or scandals have been investigated ny the media and is fwas found to be correct m more than 90% ! Every week thre is Billions going to waste and the wanna hide that to us whoo understand , but their time will come.ANC wont rule this country until until, we will change that, even thou it will take some time,,,,,.,., we are going to do it !1

  • Terminusest - 2011-09-20 08:32

    This bill is incorrectly named. It is the Protection of Corrupt ANC Cadres Bill, designed to prevent exposure in the media of the thieving perpetrated by ANC parasites. JZ783 and Co. desperately want this enacted so that they can cover up information on their involvement in all the tender fraud (including the Arms deal).

  • GypseyAnn - 2011-09-20 09:37

    Government - go back to the drawing board and come up with something that is actually democratic and doesn't hide all your sins. It is great to see that South Africans are sticking together out there and not just being railroaded by government.

  • PeteV - 2011-09-21 23:09

    We're living in the last country in Africa to head for the same fate as almost all the other 53 African states. It's one lesson we still couldn't learn from history, although it was taught almost 50 times. The secrecy bill is just one of the "signs" along the road to destruction. But have do have hope, look at progress of life in Libya...

  • PeteV - 2011-09-21 23:10

    We're living in the last country in Africa to head for the same fate as almost all the other 53 African states. It's one lesson we still couldn't learn from history, although it was taught almost 50 times. The secrecy bill is just one of the "signs" along the road to destruction. But have do have hope, look at progress of life in Libya...

  • litefeather - 2011-09-27 14:03

    peoples??give these guys enough rope and they will hang themself,not even a week ago zuma joint barrack obama in an "no secret" initiative,and his in charge of the anc and the country,but how will this reflect on sa and the anc if it were to come to light zuma is in support of a no secret government while at the exact same time implimenting such a law to ban media coverage of government activities and secrets,LUCKILY!!this piece of appartheid law has anc stamp of approval this time,which will badly damage the name and in a permanent way the anc brand please...don't let the citizens of this country from puting the rope around your necs

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